Two dead, 759 displaced in three Easter Weekend fires

More than 700 people were left homeless in fires which razed more than 300 shacks. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Independent Newspapers

More than 700 people were left homeless in fires which razed more than 300 shacks. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 2, 2024


Cape Town - A woman fled her Covid-19 informal settlement community after two people died, 400 were displaced and 250 shacks were destroyed in a suspected arson attack.

The fire was one of three at the Easter Weekend to destroy 339 structures, affecting 759 people in Langa, Dunoon and Covid-19 near Mfuleni.

On Sunday morning in Covid-19, a lover’s quarrel is alleged to have been behind the devastation.

Community activist, Mfundo Ganeko, said: “They were drinking the whole night and around 11pm the girlfriend saw that her boyfriend was with another woman and they disappeared. She went looking for him at his shack and decided to burn it down.

“In Covid-19 we mostly have young people. Maybe about 75% are younger than 35 and 15-20% from 35 up. And we know that when it’s a public holiday or weekend we normally have disasters.”

He said the fire spread to other people’s homes and they could not extinguish the flames.

“Unfortunately, people who stayed on that side started the fire when people were drunk and could not extinguish the fire.

“Close to this place there was another couple and they too were drunk. They were confirmed dead. People did have the tools to extinguish the fire and their structures were built too close to each other, and it was also windy.

“For two hours they watched the blaze consume their homes. The fire fighters were unable to gain access to the area because there are no roads.

“About 250 shacks were destroyed and about 400 people were displaced.”

Ganeko said the woman suspected to have started the fire, fled the area.

“She is nowhere to be found. People did look for her and she has run away.”

Police spokesperson, Joseph Swartbooi, said officers from Mfuleni attended to a complaint on Sunday. He said they opened an inquest into the deaths and cause of the fire.

“Upon arrival in Covid informal settlement in Ikwetera Street, they found a huge number of shacks on fire.

“The services of the fire brigade were requested to extinguish the fire.

“After further inspection, they recovered the bodies of two victims amongst the debris.

“The male, aged 28, and the female, aged 25, were declared deceased on the scene by medical personnel.

“Mfuleni police registered an inquest for further investigation.”

In Joe Slovo, Langa, 68 homes were razed while in Dunoon, 71 shacks were destroyed.

Gift of the Givers was on the ground to assess the damage and people’s needs.

Project Coordinator Ali Sablay said: “It was a bleak Easter Weekend for the affected families as they could save no belongings, with schools opening this week. Credit is due to the City of Cape Town fire department for containing the blaze. Gift of the Givers teams assisted the families with humanitarian assistance. We also went to Dunoon and Mfuleni.”

The City’s Fire and Rescue spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, said it was a busy weekend for firefighters.

“At 7.20pm, a call was received of structures alight in Mshumpela Way in Langa by 9.40pm, the fire was extinguished – no injuries or fatalities were reported.

“At around 1.35am, we returned to Mshumpela Way in Langa, where a second fire had broken out and firefighters managed to contain and extinguish the fire by 4.25am.

“At 11.20pm, fire services were alerted to informal structures burning in Site 5, Dunoon, by 4.30am the blaze was extinguished. No injuries or fatalities were reported.”

“At 2.30am, the Fire and Rescue Service was alerted of informal structures alight in Umzumbe Street, Mfuleni. More than 50 firefighters were on scene, with over a dozen firefighting vehicles, by 8.50am, firefighters extinguished the blaze.

“Two people died, one person sustained serious injuries and was treated and transported to hospital, while another person (adult male) was treated for a laceration to his arm. The cause of the fire is unknown pending an investigation by the South African Police Service.”

Disaster Risk Management spokesperson, Charlotte Powell, said they alerted their humanitarian aid partners to provide assistance to all those affected by the fires through the provision of food, blankets, clothing and toiletry packs.

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