Durban — One dead, four injured and one child missing were reported after a fire destroyed hundreds of shacks at the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Clare Estate, Durban, on Sunday.
A search for the child was still under way at the time of going to press.
The Daily News heard allegations from shack dwellers that the fire could have occurred after an argument between friends who were consuming alcohol.
One of the men, Mhlawensuku Macala, 23, died in the fire. A neighbour, who had heard the argument and who cannot be named because she is a potential witness, overheard the argument.
Macala is alleged to have stabbed the arsonist friend on a previous occasion. The neighbour said at 2am, she heard them having an argument.
“One of them said he will come back. He did at 3am and set alight the room of the deceased. After that he shouted ‘There’s fire’ and he ran away and he is nowhere to be found,” she said.
According to another neighbour, Dumile Noxhaka, everyone thought it was just one of those light arguments and were shocked to realise that he came back and carried out his threat.
Macala’s father, Vuyani Mkala, said he received a call at 4am informing him of his son’s death.
“When I arrived at the shack it was still on fire. According to what I heard he was burnt inside while he was sleeping. Right now I am still shocked, and I am going through all the emotions. I need financial help to take my son’s body home to the Eastern Cape,” said Mkala.
eThekwini Fire Divisional Commander Nqabakazi Nqoro said the cause of the fire, including the rumours surrounding it, will be investigated.
“So far one has been reported dead, four casualties were transported to nearby hospitals and approximately 500 homes have burnt down,” she said.
Nqoro added that the number of fatalities is likely to increase because of the damages.
The president of Abahlali baseMjondolo movement, Sibusiso Zikode, said his fear was that there might be more than one fatal casualty and urged the government to intervene.
“What happened here is shocking and due to the severe damage I am worried that there might be more fatal casualties as the search continues. If people had the land, incidents like this would never have happened. It is very disappointing that in the era of democracy, there are people living in such conditions,’’ said Zikode.
The eThekwini Municipality said disaster management teams were assisting the affected families.
Sydenham police are investigating the incident.
WhatsApp your views on this story to 071 485 7995.