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Blaze that ravaged Dakota informal settlement took firefighters more than 10 hours to extinguish

Dakota informal settlement on fire in Dakota Beach, Isipingo. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/African News Agency (ANA)

Dakota informal settlement on fire in Dakota Beach, Isipingo. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 18, 2023


Durban — The fire that destroyed 350 homes took more than 10 hours for firefighters to extinguish at the Dakota Informal Settlement in Isipingo.

eThekwini Fire Department Divisional commander Mervin Govender said it took 30 fire fighters and five fire trucks to put out the inferno.

“The heavy winds made it difficult to easily put out the fire and it caused much delay. The cause of the fire is unknown at the moment,” said Govender.

Destitute families were placed in two tents as they now await news regarding shelter.

The fire left 350 units destroyed and over 1 000 residents displaced.

Ward 90 PR councillor, Lindiwe Mthembu said people had been temporarily placed in two tents.

Men and women have separate tents. She said some private organisations had offered to assist residents with building materials so that they could start rebuilding.

“At the moment different organisations have been helping out with food and other necessities while the settlers are still trying to find their feet,” said Mthembu.

She said the residents were still struggling to adapt to the situation.

“School children have not been going to school because they do not have school uniforms and bath water. I hope all this will be resolved before the end of this week so that life can go back to normal and for people to not miss out on their daily activities,” said Mthembu.

She said they were working with the nearest clinic to assist those on chronic medication because they had lost everything in the fire.

Gift of the Givers Foundation community liaison, Bilall Jeewa said they had handed out about 570 blankets and mattresses.

“Water and food will be delivered today. That seems to be the biggest issue,” said Jeewa.

Dakota informal settlement on fire in Dakota Beach, Isipingo. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/African News Agency (ANA)

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements spokesperson Mlungisi Khumalo said the department was awaiting final communication from the municipality before they could act.

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Social Development spokesperson Mhlaba Memela said people who lost documents such as IDs and social grant cards could contact social workers to renew documentation lost in the fire.

“Other interventions are to provide Social Relief Grant for food assistance and that is an operation done by (Department of) Social Development and the municipality,” said Memela.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson, Lindiwe Khuzwayo said the City continued to fast-track relief efforts for residents.

“The distribution of building materials to the families will commence this week as soon as the process of profiling families is complete. Affected residents are currently housed in marquees erected near Dakota Beach while the site is being cleared. There, the families are being provided with meals and clean water,” said Khuzwayo.

She said the municipality was working with other spheres of government, business as well as humanitarian organisations to provide additional support and SA Social Security Agency and Home Affairs officials were on site assisting with documentation lost in the fire.

Meanwhile, in a report by IOL, the eThekwini Municipality admitted to have failed to adequately spend its neighbourhood development grant even though most of its townships needed it. As a result, the City lost R122 million of the grant while other cities like Ekurhuleni were able to spend theirs and were given additional funds.

The report adds the City was granted R315m in the previous period but struggled to spend the funds until the drastic decision by the National Treasury and the latest loss of the monies comes barely a month after IOL reported that the City failed to use its urban settlements development grant which is given to cities to acquire and develop land to eradicate shacks

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