Johanna Arreis lost everything in a fire at the Vygiekraai informal settlement in Belgravia Athlone, that left 31 structures destroyed with one death reported. 124 people have been left displaced by the blaze. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
Johanna Arreis lost everything in a fire at the Vygiekraai informal settlement in Belgravia Athlone, that left 31 structures destroyed with one death reported. 124 people have been left displaced by the blaze. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

PICS: Athlone residents left destitute after blaze guts shacks, claims a life

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Feb 16, 2021

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Cape Town – Residents watched in disbelief as a bulldozer cleared the ground of charred remains of homes and belongings, following a blaze in Hadji Ebrahim informal settlement, Belgravia, in Athlone on Monday.

Residents believe the fire started as a result of a lit candle in the shack of an elderly man who died in the fire.

One of the residents, identified as Jabu, 56, lived in the settlement for the past 30 years. He lived with five others in a shack, now destroyed.

“I was in the shop. I saw something was burning inside here. We were trying to help. I saved only two things: blankets and a bucket with my clothes,” he said.

Grandmother Debbie Phillips, 60, showed she and her eight grandchildren and two foster children had lost everything and all that was saved were the clothes she had on. Phillips said her one grandchild could not attend the first day of school, as her uniform and books were destroyed.

She and several others were forced to sleep outside.

A fire at the Vygiekraai informal settlement in Belgravia, Athlone, left 31 structures destroyed with one death reported. 124 people have been left displaced by the blaze. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
A fire at the Vygiekraai informal settlement in Belgravia, Athlone, left 31 structures destroyed with one death reported. 124 people have been left displaced by the blaze. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
A fire at the Vygiekraai informal settlement in Belgravia, Athlone, left 31 structures destroyed with one death reported. 124 people have been left displaced by the blaze. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

The City’s Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, said the City received an emergency call at 9.12pm on Sunday about informal structures being on fire.

Twenty-five firefighters from Ottery, Wynberg, Gugulethu, Lansdowne and Goodwood were dispatched.

“Numerous informal structures were destroyed, leaving many displaced. One man sustained fatal burn wounds. The fire was extinguished at approximately 11.52pm. The scene was handed over to the SAPS,” said Carelse.

The City said 31 wood-and-iron structures were destroyed, leaving 124 people displaced, and one person dead.

Police spokesperson, Noloyiso Rwexana confirmed an inquest case had been opened for investigation following the death of a 66-year-old man in the fire. “The cause of fire is yet to be determined,” said Rwexana.

A fire at the Vygiekraai informal settlement in Belgravia, Athlone, left 31 structures destroyed with one death reported. 124 people have been left displaced by the blaze. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
A fire at the Vygiekraai informal settlement in Belgravia, Athlone, left 31 structures destroyed with one death reported. 124 people have been left displaced by the blaze. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Meanwhile, the City responded to another fire at 9.45am in Fabriek Street, Uitsig, yesterday.

Carelse said fire crews from Belhar, Epping, Goodwood and Bellville responded to informal structures alight. “Five informal structures were destroyed and no injuries were reported. The fire was extinguished at 10.36am,” he said.

Johanna Arreis lost everything in a fire at the Vygiekraai informal settlement in Belgravia Athlone, left 31 structures destroyed with one death reported. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Cape Argus

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