Cape Town - Aid is streaming in for about 200 people left destitute after a massive fire ravaged Wupperthal, near Clanwilliam and destroyed nearly 50 houses of this small town.
The blaze, which broke out on Sunday, gutted the Wupperthal Moravian Mission Station, the local clinic, school and town hall.
Since then emergency services from the Western Cape department of health have been working around the clock to assist victims and have been placed on standby where required.
Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, of the Moravian Church said: “The situation in the area remains unchanged. At the moment we have our disaster risk management team on the ground busy assessing the area. They are doing an inspection regarding the destroyed buildings to see what can be salvaged and what must be destroyed.”
Solomons-Johannes said the telecommunications infrastructure had been completely destroyed, leaving the community unable to communicate efficiently.
“The electricity supply to the area has been shut down and our first priority is to ensure that we try and restore electricity. Regarding the families that have lost their homes, we are aware that some are living with family and friends during this time,” he said.
The Wupperthal Moravian Mission Station has been around since 1865. It’s an area with a rich history.
The village was established in 1828 by two Rhenish missionaries. It became home to a large number of freed slaves.
The area has also become known for producing products such as dried fruit, dried beans and rooibos tea.
On Tuesday Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC, Anton Bredell, visited the area. He said teams were working to restore the electricity supply and hoped this would be achieved by the weekend.
“I have met with the community and informed them the water supply will be restored tonight (Tuesday) but our biggest concern is the structures that survived the fire. Because they are so old, they are a potential risk. We had discussions with the municipality to have those structures destroyed,” he said.
Bredell said that they would send trauma councillors to the community in the coming days.
“It’s an extremely sad situation and it’s extremely traumatic. There is an investigation under way to determine the cause of the fire so that the community can know,” Bredell said.
The Bishop at the Moravian Church, Augustine Joemath, said that the church has rendered services to those who have been displaced.
“The biggest miracle is that the church is still standing. We have made our facilities available for people who are in need of a place to stay.
“Everyone is extremely traumatised and we don’t want to speculate how the fire started,” Joemath said.
Disaster and relief organisation Gift of the Givers has stepped in to assist the community.
“We have started supplying food, mattresses and water, and we are providing stationery for the children. We’ve also been giving residents food and juice,” said Ali Sablay, Gift of the Givers Western Cape project manager. Sablay has also urged Capetonians to donate items, especially school-related goods.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday that he was saddened by the devastation at Wupperthal.
“The nation’s thoughts go out to the people of Wupperthal, who have suffered terrible personal losses alongside cultural assets that are of importance to all South Africans, and especially Moravian congregations across the Western Cape,” he said.
Ramaphosa said that local government and the Department of Arts and Culture would work with the Wupperthal community to bring relief to the area.
If you would like to assist with donations, contact Gift of the Givers on 0826514195.