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Durban - Five Wentworth families have been devastated by a spate of fires which destroyed their council flats over the past two months.
Two families lost their belongings when their Woodville Road flats were gutted in separate fires at the weekend.
Residents believe an electrical fault caused the fires, and blame the council for failing to make repairs years ago.
Last week three flats in Alabama Road were destroyed.
Strong winds on Monday brought more misery to council flat-dwellers in the area, blowing off the roof of a block of flats in Reiger Road.
An emotional Charmin Cook, 32, who has lived in her two-bedroom flat for 13 years, told the Daily News how she watched everything she owned disappear in one of the fires.
“It was around 1.30am on Saturday. We were all sleeping. I got up with a shock because I could smell smoke in the house.”
Cook said there was only enough time to get her four children out of the flat.
“We lost everything, clothes; my children lost their school books and other important documents,” she said.
The fire then spread to a neighbouring flat.
Tenant Beauty Poisson said she could not believe what had happened.
“It all happened so fast. Before we knew it the fire was destroying my house and there was nothing we could do but wait for the fire department.”
She said the block of flats had neither a fire extinguisher nor a fire hydrant.
Residents said they wanted the city to give them new flats.
Fiona Anderson, whose flat was below Cook’s, said her home had been damaged by smoke and the rain that had seeped in since the fire.
She said no renovations had been done in more than 40 years. “The only thing the council has done is paint our apartments, and that was done once. No water pipes have been repaired, our windows stay broken and our walls stay cracked and are getting worse every day,” she said.
The buildings were beyond repair and needed to be demolished.
The councillor in the area, Aubrey Snyman, confirmed that the buildings were in a derelict state and repairs or renovations had not been done in many years.
However, plans were afoot to renovate them, he said.
“More than 1 000 units will be undergoing renovations in the upcoming months... Twelve families (at a time) will move into newly built prefabricated structures while renovations are taking place.”
He said he was not aware of any plans to build new homes for the residents.
Durban central fire department divisional commander Owen Singh confirmed there had been fires at two Wentworth flats at the weekend.
“There is still an investigation taking place into the cause of the fire, but we suspect that it was caused by an electrical fault in the building,” Singh said.