Durban - Thirty shacks were gutted in a fire early on Monday morning after a gas bottle exploded at an informal settlement in Vusi Mzimela (Bellair) Road in Bellair, Durban.
One person suffered serious burns.
Divisional commander at the Durban Central Fire Station, Owen Singh, said they received a call for assistance at 2am.
“Shacks as well as wrought-iron structures were damaged,” he said.
Singh said illegal electricity connections were suspected to be the cause of the blaze.
The Department of Electricity was also called in to assist after it was found that overhead cables appeared to have been tampered with, he said.
A disaster management team was on hand to assist displaced families, with the help of ward councillor, Zanele Ndzoziya.
Singh said that the flames had spread rapidly because of the high winds which blustered through the province early this morning.
Ndzoziya said the injured man was in a stable condition.
“While we are disappointed that even one person was injured, we are glad nobody was killed. This could have been a lot worse.”
She said those whose homes had been damaged, would be housed in the community hall until their homes were rebuilt.
The Department of Housing was expected to assist in rebuilding the homes, Ndzoziya said.
She said while they suspected the fire had been caused by illegal electricity connections, no one from the community had come forward to claim responsibility.
Ndzoziya said the exact location of the start of the fire was also being investigated.
She said councillors in the area had tried on several occasions to educate the community on the dangers of illegal electrical connections.
When the Daily News visited the area today, community members were still attempting to salvage what little they could.
Many, whose hands were blackened by the soot, had been working for hours to try to construct makeshift shelters.
Wendy Hadebe, who had lived with her family at the informal settlement for almost eight years, said: “My heart is sore. Everything is gone…”
She said that important documents, such as identity books, had been destroyed.
“Where do we go find money for new IDs [books] when we have no money for food?”
She said that some people in the community were also HIV-positive and had lost all their medication.
“If you miss just one day, you can get really sick.”
Hadebe said that she and her neighbours had endured a similar blaze in 2007.
Families had lost everything on that occasion too.
Another resident, Smalls Magubane, said that he had also lost all his belongings.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do now.”
Attempts to contact the city’s disaster management team and Department of Housing were unsuccessful. - Daily News