Durban - A Reservoir Hills ward councillor has told how he tried to save people from certain death when fire tore through their shacks in the suburb.
eThekwini councillor Themba Mtshali pointed to a burn wound on his neck which he sustained when he pulled a woman from the blaze at the Shannon Drive informal settlement last Friday night.
He had been on his way home after a meeting when he received a call telling him about the fire, he said.
When he arrived, people were screaming and running into their burning shacks to rescue their valuables.
“The heat was intense and the scene was chaotic,” he said.
“I couldn’t stand back and watch. I had to help. It’s the worst experience I have been through. Only God knows how people and children survived.
“The extent of the fire came as a shock to me,” Mtshali recalled as he walked through the debris: coils from mattresses, food tins and ashes.
The fire spread from the bottom of the settlement to the top, fanned by a slight breeze and the fact that the shacks were close to each other.
Only 10 out of 380 homes were left standing.
It is believed that the blaze started after a candle fell over.
“There are only three exit points as the settlement is built on a rocky cliff. The fire threatened to spread to the nearby formal houses, but was extinguished by the fire department,” he said.
The municipality erected tents in Halpin Avenue to help house the 253 families affected, and a third tent has now been delivered, along with additional portable toilets.
Mtshali said he was waiting for the municipality supply chain management to give the “green light” to buy building material.
He added that careful planning would enable the city to provide pre-paid electricity to the shacks.
Mayor James Nxumalo visited the site to address residents on Monday.
He made a commitment to take the matter forward to all relevant departments, Mtshali said.