83 shacks up in flames in 90 minutes

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shack fire feb 19

INLSA

A Langa resident salvages some of her belongings after a fire. Picture: Cindy Waxa

Cape Town - About 300 people have been left homeless after a fire raged through Joe Slovo informal settlement in Langa on Monday, burning down 83 shacks.

The fire broke out at 9.25 am, said Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, city disaster management spokesman.

There were no reports of injuries or fatalities, and firefighters brought the blaze under control by about 11am.

Men and women carried buckets of water and tried to douse the flames alongside firefighters. Hundreds of onlookers gathered at the edges of the settlement.

“I was at work when I heard the news of the fire,” said mechanic Lucky Khatywa. “I rushed back. All I could save was this fridge, there is nothing left of my shack. I want to know where I will sleep tonight, and whether the city will help us.”

A number of people were seen climbing electricity poles with pangas to cut down copper cables. Onlookers said the wires would be gathered and sold off as scrap.

Zoleka Vukuza, who has been living in Joe Slovo for 11 years, said this was the fourth time she had lost her shack and all her possessions in a fire.

“Each time we have to rebuild… it is difficult to see everything go up in smoke. We wish we could have decent houses, and the government has been building houses here. They need to speed up the process,” she said.

A disaster management official promised to provide emergency parcels of food and blankets to those affected.

On Monday afternoon, residents were picking through the rubble in an attempt to salvage their possessions and retrieve building materials for rebuilding. Food parcels had not yet arrived, but Solomons-Johannes said that the parcels and blankets, baby packs, clothing and building material would be dispatched.

Zukisani Sibunzi, a spokesman for the SA National Civic Organisation in the area, said a community hall would be hired for displaced people.

“The situation is a bit desperate at the moment. People have lost food, clothing, everything. But we will be working with disaster management to accommodate and feed the victims of the fire,” Sibunzi said.

Theo Layne, spokesman for the city’s fire and rescue services, said the cause of the fire was unknown.

But Anele Kabingca, a resident and community leader who lost his shack in the fire, said it was caused by an electrical fault in a shack where a woman was cooking.

daneel.knoetze@inl.co.za

Cape Argus


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