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MEC says Western Cape was the site of more than 8600 shack fires between 2019 and 2021

Three hundred homes were gutted in a devastating fire that ripped through the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Langa, Cape Town in April. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Three hundred homes were gutted in a devastating fire that ripped through the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Langa, Cape Town in April. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 25, 2022

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Cape Town - Infrastructure MEC Tertuis Simmers has said there were 8 642 shack fires in the province between 2019 and 2021, with 2 835 of them recorded in the 2019/20 financial year and 5 807 more during the 2020/21 period.

Simmers said that while a comprehensive list of all the names of informal settlements engulfed by fire was not readily available, a small number of municipalities did provide names of informal settlements where fires were reported.

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He said that the department, until recently known as Human Settlements, had several measures in place to make sure that fire season is dealt with as effectively as possible.

Simmers was answering a written question from provincial ANC Human Settlements spokesperson Andile Lili, who had asked how many shack fires there had been since 2019 and what measures the Province had taken to prevent and respond to informal settlement fires and what sort of victim support was on hand.

Responding to Simmer’s answer, Lili said the number of reported informal settlement fires in the province since 2019 to date were shocking and saddening.

“Our people are living in squalor and are subjected to fires where they lose their belongings and lives of their loved ones.”

He said that the number of fires exposes the DA's uncaring attitude towards the poor and that all municipalities should intervene by providing fire kits for all the victims.

Meanwhile, Local Government MEC Anton Bredell has said that the Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC) team had a very busy summer with several wildfires being managed and was now looking ahead to the winter to identify major risks.

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Local Government MEC Anton Bredell with disaster management chief director Colin Deiner at the Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC). Picture: Supplied

Among the risks identified were: Heavy rains and flooding; Low temperatures; Informal settlement fires; Electricity constraints and mudslides associated with continuous wet weather.

He said to address these risks, the Province had taken several proactive steps including an agreement with the SANDF to use helicopters for rescue operations and mutual aid agreements with coastal provinces as well as local and district municipalities.

He said there were also “open communication channels and regular updates between the provincial disaster management centre and the South African Weather Service regarding early weather forecasts.”

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Bredell spoke as he rolled out the Province’s winter preparedness plan during a briefing at the PDMC.

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Cape Argus

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