Masi fire leaves 1 000 homeless

Cape Town 160212 A fire at Masiphumelele destroyed about 200 shacks. Photo by Michael Walker

Cape Town 160212 A fire at Masiphumelele destroyed about 200 shacks. Photo by Michael Walker

Published Feb 13, 2016


Cape Town - Another fire blazed through embattled Masiphumelele on Friday, razing around 250 shacks and leaving about 1 000 people homeless.

The latest fire comes just months after two people died, about 800 shacks were razed and more than 4 000 people were left homeless in November. Many are still living in a community hall in the area.

Fourteen firefighting vehicles, two helicopters and about 38 firefighters rushed to Masiphumelele at 2.20pm on Friday, said

city fire and rescue service spokeswoman Liezl Moodie.

One resident, Bongie Kwandisa, said she arrived home to find the suburb engulfed in smoke.

“When I arrived there were a number of firefighters and thick black smoke. They refused to let us go through so we couldn’t save our things.

“My aunt was at work at the time so when she came back her home was already totally destroyed. We don’t know what started the fire. This is a nightmare for all of us,” she said.

Community leader Tshepo Moletsana said they believed the fire was the result of a faulty electricity meter.

“Informal settlements are dense and if a fire is sparked in one home it will spread to other shacks. We believe that a electricity meter in one of the shacks must have exploded, causing the fire. The situation here is very bad and there are people injured while they were trying to save their belongings,” he said.

Moletsana was also concerned the fire would see more people having to move into the community hall, where about 40 people were still living after last year’s fire.

“Those who have lost their homes can seek shelter with friends or relatives because it is going to be a crisis at the hall now.

There is no privacy as it was not meant for permanent residency.”

He said the community would meet the City of Cape Town on Monday to discuss the matter of three vacant sites identified in the area.

“They have to get together with other spheres of government and start working on a formal housing plan for this community because it is the only way we can escape fires.

“We have to leave Monday’s meeting with a resolution because we cannot continue to watch the people of Masiphumelele suffer like this,” Moletsana said.

After last year’s fire it was reported that a fire station would be built for the area in a bid to create more speedy response times to fires

Ward councillor Felicity Purchase confirmed on Friday the Fish Hoek fire station would be moved closer to Masiphumelele to help “reduce the response time to between a minute and a minute and a half, depending on the availability of the resources”.

This would, however, only be done by the end of next year.

Charlotte Powell, spokeswomen for the city’s Disaster Management Centre, said it and the Human Settlements department were busy with assessments.

NGO Historical Disadvantaged Individuals was distributing hot meals, blankets, clothing and mattresses on Friday night, she said.

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