A pregnant woman and a fireman were taken to hospital after a fire gutted about 150 shacks at the Jhadu Place informal settlement in Alpine Road, Springfield, on Monday.
The divisional commander of the Durban central fire station Narend Birjalal, said an illegal electricity connection was suspected to have caused the blaze.
He said the fire station received a call at about 10am and dispatched 15 firemen.
‘‘It took us 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze,” he said.
A fireman who injured his arm and a woman who suffered smoke inhalation were taken to hospital.
When The Mercury arrived at the scene, families were recovering burnt IDs and other items such as television sets, radios and furniture that escaped the blaze.
Trees were still burning and smoke covered the area.
A resident, Mduduzi Dlamini, said he was woken by cries of “umlilo!” (fire!).
“The fire started at about 9.30am. One shack was burning, but the wind was so powerful that the rest of the shacks caught alight within seconds.”
Dlamini said the fire spread so quickly that there had been no time to save any belongings.
People fled in panic and some watched helplessly as their homes were destroyed.
“The only thing I could think about was my one-year-old daughter, Ntombi, who I safely rescued before my house was engulfed,” Dlamini said.
Desperate to recover what baby food he could, he used a spade to sift through the ashes.
“I do not have a place to sleep tonight. My daughter is crying and I do not know what she will eat.”
His four other children were at school when the fire started.
His neighbour, Justice Langa, who is pregnant, was taken to hospital after suffering smoke inhalation.
Ward Councillor Bhekisani Ngcobo said people who had been displaced would be housed in a local hall and church temporarily. He said the Red Cross had promised to donate clothes and hot meals.
Nigel Gumede, housing portfolio committee chairman, said a team would be dispatched to the area, adding that Disaster Management had brought in 100 blankets. - The Mercury