Masiphumelele resident Dorris Busia sits amid destroyed shacks while some of her neighbours sift through the debris after a fire early today.
Masiphumelele resident Dorris Busia sits amid destroyed shacks while some of her neighbours sift through the debris after a fire early today.

Man dies in city shack fires

Time of article published May 2, 2011

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NATASHA BEZUINDEHOUT

Staff Reporter

A MAN was killed when a fire razed 500 shacks at the Masiphumelele informal settlement near Kommetjie this morning.

The cause of the fire was unknown at the time of going to press.

Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, the City of Cape Town’s disaster risk management spokesman, said the fire spread through the settlement after midnight.

As a thick cloud of smoke hung in the air hundreds of people were desperately trying to salvage some of their belongings from the rubble. Some were carrying damaged mattresses, fridges and couches.

Most said they had lost everything, from official documents to school uniforms and household goods.

This morning a “preliminary estimate” was that at least 500 shacks had been destroyed, displacing around 2 000 people, said Solomons-Johannes.

He confirmed that a man had died, but officials were still trying to get hold of the man’s family for further details.

The fire tore through the settlement while most were sleeping, and many residents were still wearing their pyjamas when the Cape Argus visited the scene this morning. For some it was the only clothing they have left.

Mabel Sheppard said she awoke to the screams of other residents just after 1am.

“I don’t know where we are going to sleep tonight. We heard screams and saw the fire coming close.

“We lost absolutely everything. I don’t even have shoes, I am wearing men’s shoes. My kids, aged 17 and 15, have lost their school clothes.”

Margareth Zonke, still in her pyjamas, said she was forced to flee her home and could not save any of her possessions.

“I just got out of our place like this, I couldn’t save anything. My family of five don’t know what we are going to do tonight.”

Constance Vumenlini said she managed carry out some appliances before the fire reached her home.

“We managed to get out our TV and fridge. We couldn’t even get pots. People could see the fire coming and they helped to carry out items.

“But I only have the clothes I am wearing.”

Mlungiseleli Nyengane lost all his official documents and his dog also died in the blaze.

“I lost my driver’s licence, my ID, all school certificates. My whole house is gone. I don’t know what I am going to eat. Even my dog died,” Nyengane said.

Firefighters from across the city, and 30 emergency vehicles were sent to the scene. Vehicles from Khayelitsha, Strand, Milnerton, Wynberg, Goodwood and Fish Hoek arrived at the settlement.

City disaster response teams were assessing the damage this morning, providing food parcels, baby packs, building material and blankets to residents, said Solomons-Johannes.

He said the city would clear the site so residents could erect new structures as soon as possible.

But, Solomons-Johannes said because of the scale of damage it was likely that residents would have to be accommodated in local halls.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape Department of Health’s Metro Emergency Medical Services were called out to a fire in Fish Hoek at 3am in which one person died.

“Paramedics on the scene treated one person for smoke inhalation and one person was transported to Tygerberg Hospital with burn wounds.

“Two firemen were also transported to Vincent Pallotti Hospital with burn wounds,” said Mark van der Heever, deputy director of communications for the provincial health department.

“After the fire was extinguished one body was found and handed over to Forensic Pathology Services.”

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