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Relatives mourn loss of life and property

Cape Town -

The relatives of two men who died in a devastating fire on New Year’s Day are having to deal with their loss and at the same time try to piece their lives back together.

FILE PHOTO:Alternative accommodation has to be provided for thousands of illegal squatters occupying private land in Klerksdorp. Photo: Ross Jansen. Credit: CAPE ARGUS

The fire in the BM Section of Khayelitsha, which was fuelled by high winds in the early hours of Tuesday, was started by a man who left a stove on, residents claim. At least 800 homes were destroyed.

Masixole Ngcebetshana, who lost his uncle, Otto Ngcebetshana, 35, said his uncle had been alone at home.

“He lived with his girlfriend, but she is on holiday in the Eastern Cape, he said.

Winnie Mbotshane was devastated to find her brother, Nkosiyabo Luko, 30, had died in his shack while they were trying to get belongings out.

“The fire started close to his side, we were taking some furniture out and after a while we noticed he was gone,” Mbotshane said. They tried to call his phone numerous times before discovering his death.

Twenty-nine-year-old Yako Nkusiyaba also died in the fire that left thousands destitute.

Many of the residents, like Monwabisi Nyama were left with only the clothes they were wearing.

“I was at work when the fire started and I came home to this,” Nyama said, pointing to the remnants of the home, he shared with his wife.

“My wife is on holiday and I phoned her and she will be cutting her trip shorter so we can try and rebuild our home,” Nyama said. He said this was the third fire he had experienced while living in the informal settlement.

“… Usually the fires can be stopped but this was different,” Nyama said. Residents around them who weren’t affected by the fire didn’t help and that everyone had to fend for themselves.

In the Thembeni informal settlement in Dunoon, people were already rebuilding their homes, a few hours after the blaze was contained.

Enoch Sobutyu pastor at St Johns church said he suspected the fire was started by fireworks.

“It was these children playing with firecrackers that started the fire and now we have lost all of our things, even the Christmas clothes we just bought for our children,” Sobutyu said.

The fire destroyed 15 formal houses and 220 shacks and 800 people were displaced.

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