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Johannesburg - A couple died, one person was admitted to hospital and about 550 people were left homeless after a fire believed to have been caused by a jilted lover razed parts of the Kya Sand informal settlement, north-west of Joburg, on Sunday.
A total of 136 shacks were destroyed in the fire, Johannesburg Emergency Management Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said on Sunday.
Residents claimed that the ex-girlfriend of one of the victims had threatened to set him and his new partner alight after he broke up with her and moved in with his new lover earlier this year.
“No one took it (the threats) seriously until this happened. Now the man’s brothers are miserable,” said William Mahlaula, who lost his four-room shack and stock worth an estimated R20 000 as his spaza shop also went up in flames.
The businessman said he had been asleep when the blaze started in the early hours of the morning.
“I heard people screaming ‘fire fire!’ (so) I went outside to see the cause,” he said.
Mahlaula added it was already too late for residents to save the couple’s lives.
“The fire was powerful. We tried to save them but it was already too late,” said Mahlaula, adding that he then realised that his shack was also ablaze.
“It was very painful seeing my shop and house on fire.
“I don’t have anything left now. These are the only clothes I have,” he said.
An inquest docket has been opened and police are investigating the cause of the fire, which saw residents working late into the day to rebuild their shacks, said police spokesman Warrant Officer Daniel Mavimbela of Douglasdale police station.
Mulaudzi urged residents of informal settlements to exercise caution when making fires.
He said residents of settlements often bought unregulated paraffin stoves, which were fire hazards.
“We are appealing to them to buy their stoves in recognised shops and not in the streets.
“Paraffin stoves bought in the streets are cheap and not regulated by the national regulator for compulsory specifications.
“Such stoves can easily cause a fire because they explode soon after usage,” added Mulaudzi.
Sunday’s fire was the fourth in the city since Wednesday, leaving many people homeless.
On Wednesday, 17 shacks caught fire, leaving 34 people homeless, in Diepsloot, north of Joburg. No one died in the blaze, which is believed to have been caused by a paraffin stove exploding, Mulaudzi said.
Scores of people were left homeless on Friday when 40 shacks burnt down in the Rugby Club informal settlement in Roodepoort. The fire was believed to have been started by either a faulty electrical appliance or a candle at around 5am, said Mulaudzi.
On Saturday, 10 people were left homeless when a fire razed five shacks in the George Gogh settlement near Tembisa in Ekurhuleni. The cause of the fire was not known.
Mulaudzi said a number of NGOs were assisting the affected families. – Additional information by Sapa