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More than 16 000 people affected by shack fires

More than 16000 people have been displaced due to around 9000 shack fires recorded between 2019 to 2021.

More than 16000 people have been displaced due to around 9000 shack fires recorded between 2019 to 2021.

Published May 25, 2022

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Cape Town- More than 16000 people have been displaced due to around 9000 shack fires recorded between 2019 to 2021 in the province.

This was disclosed by Infrastructure MEC, Tertius Simmer in response to a parliamentary question by ANC legislature member, Andile Lili.

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Simmers said there had been 2835 shack fires recorded in 2019/2020 and 5807 in 2020/ 2021.

The number of people displaced between 2019 and 2021 was 16 705.

Twenty deaths were recorded in 2019/2020 and 36 over the 2020/2021 period.

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The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) said while the figure is high, they were not shocked because of the poor conditions people live in.

SJC spokesperson, Thando George said: “Geographically people are in areas that need to be upgraded; people deserve dignified homes; it is something we are constantly advocating for. Imagine losing all your belongings and not knowing when or how you will get it back? It is devastating and victims are not assisted with temporary housing. Fires and floods happen every year. The government should be better prepared to deal with it.”

Lili said shack fires were a major problem and he had been inundated with pleas for assistance.

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“There It is a big problem and the City is not even catering for shack fires anymore by rebuilding.”

Community activist Keith Blake added that not enough was being done in terms of education and assistance to rebuild from authorities.

“The fire department and our officials will have to give educational guidance at each informal settlement in three different languages, and leave prevention and action information pages that are laminated and easily available for people to access, as well as emergency numbers which they are not doing.

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“They can also train community members to become volunteer firefighters and provide and train people on how to use fire hydrants.

“The effect of a fire on a person’s life is major, it is someone’s home and they do not have insurance and the City no longer provides emergency kits to rebuild so where does that leave the victim? It is not right, not enough is being done.”

In terms of measures to prevent and respond to shack fires, Simmers said the Department has been utilising its Human Settlements Development Grant (HSDG), OPSCAP, and Emergency Housing Grant (EHG) to provide interim relief in the form of fire kits and relocation assistance to victims of fire disasters.

“Emergency Housing assistance has also been provided to families whose formal houses have been destroyed by fires and circumstances beyond their control.

“The Department, in collaboration with the University of Stellenbosch’s Fire Engineering Research Unit (FireSUN), has developed a report and guideline (2021) to improve fire safety in informal settlements, including fire safety interventions for backyarders.”

Cape Times

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