No respite from heat for Blikkiesdorp

ct BLIKKIESDORP 9433 COOL SOLUTION: Jeffrey and Naeema Witbooi watch over their own and their neighbours children as the little ones seek relief from the sweltering heat in Blikkiesdorp yesterday. Photo: Ryan Jacobs

Gené McAravey

THERE’S no relief from the heat in Blikkiesdorp, the temporary relocation camp in Delft standing for nearly five years. The sun beating down on corrugated iron “hokke” (as residents refer to the houses) turns them into ovens with no ventilation, and few can bear to stay indoors.

But outside is little better, with only a few patches of shade available and the dusty ground too hot to walk on barefoot. A lucky few residents sit with children next to brightly coloured play pools filled with water. Many more, however, sit listlessly on crates in the “streets” or wander dispiritedly from shack to shack.

“You can’t stay inside, you can’t go outside. You don’t know where to turn,” said resident Joanna Fredericks.

Fredericks has been living in the Blikkiesdorp settlement for nearly a year, but many others have been there from the start, like Elaine and Deon Bailey. “You can’t fall asleep in the evenings because of the heat,” said Elaine Bailey as she sat outside her makeshift 3x6m home. “And you will get sick if you stay inside during the day.”

The Baileys and neighbour Donna Arendse tried to keep cool by using a hosepipe to wet the stony ground beneath their feet. Their small patch of shade was engineered from scraps of fabric stretched between their corrugated iron roof and the wooden fence they erected.

Arendse said the water was cut off at times, forcing residents to wait for trucks to deliver it or walk several blocks to fetch some in buckets.

The latter also comes with its own risks, as Josephine American, another Blikkiesdorp resident, recently discovered. “The other day I walked to go fetch water, and when I came back they had broken in and stolen my DVD player. Water is a necessity, so what can you do?” she said helplessly.

The theft problems were so serious, said residents, homes could not be left unattended.

Children without play pools wandered between homes in their underwear and took turns standing beneath taps to gain relief. Many of the women said it was too hot to cook anything.

Younger children were even harder to pacify. According to Fredericks, babies become irritable in the heat and cry constantly. “Everyone is suffering,” she said.

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