About 1 000 shacks were destroyed in a fire in Masiphumelele in Fish Hoek. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
About 1 000 shacks were destroyed in a fire in Masiphumelele in Fish Hoek. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Masiphumelele residents face bleak Christmas

By Shanice Naidoo Time of article published Dec 19, 2020

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Cape Town - The Christmas plans of more than 1000 households have gone up in smoke after a fire ravaged Masiphumelele on Thursday.

About 5000 families have lost everything and now face a bleak Christmas and New Year.

Masiphumelele resident Nobahle Dodo said she worked so hard to provide for her family and everything has now been destroyed.

At least 5 000 families are set to have a bleak Christmas as their homes were destroyed in a fire that tore through Masiphumelele. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA)

“We had bought some food and clothes for our children for Christmas. Now, that is all gone. We are not sure where the fire started, but we think it was someone that was cooking,” she said.

Dodo and her family had planned to go to their home in the Eastern Cape and were all packed, but that trip is no longer possible. She had taken their suitcases to another yard, but they were stolen.

Last night, she took her family to a friend’s place, where they rested for the night before returning to the scene of the fire.

“Now, we are sitting here hoping for some materials to start building again so we can have a roof over our heads. We have no house number and we will probably be last on the list,” said Dodo.

Another resident, Senzo Nompenge, said he was at work at the time of the fire and returned to the devastation.

“We have no groceries and nothing. We are sleeping outside. It’s painful. I have three children aged 21, 10 and 8. We have nothing left, even now I am in the same pants I was in yesterday. Now, we are cleaning up and waiting for material so we can rebuild."

Spokesperson for City Fire and Rescue Services, Jermaine Carelse, said they were alerted to a plume of thick black smoke in Masiphumelele around 4.13pm on Thursday.

“The crew from Kommetjie Road quickly responded to the fire in Masemola Street which was being fanned by strong winds and spreading at an alarming rate. Additional resources were called in and eight firefighting appliances and 40 staff were on scene. The fire was extinguished at 1am and crews monitored for any flare-ups. No injuries were reported.”

Living Hope, a non-profit organisation, has called for donations to help the destitute.

“It is a bit crazy here right now. We are very grateful for the community that have come out to help. They have been preparing sandwiches since the morning. People are continuously bringing in stuff,” said Avril Thomas, of Living Hope.

She added the organisation planned to feed those affected until next Wednesday.

“We need some two-plate stoves as donations so that when they rebuild they have something to cook with. We also need buckets with lids that we can use to pack hygiene packs which will contain face cloths, a bar of soap, toothpaste and a toothbrush,” said Thomas.

The Cape of Good Hope SPCA visited the scene of the fire to aid affected animals.

“Tragic is not the word to describe this scene. Our inspectors, with tears in their eyes and heavy hearts, are searching for animals that have been affected by the fire. Thousands of people have been left displaced. Families are picking up any possessions they can recover from the aftermath of the fire. Rebuilding their lives has already begun. They have nothing. All their possessions and clothes were destroyed in the fire,” the organisation said in a statement.

Mayor Dan Plato indicated he would declare a local disaster in the next 72 hours and the Western Cape government has been engaged for an emergency gazetting of the local disaster, which is expected by next week. Thereafter, funds for emergency relief material can be accessed.

In a statement, the City said: “We will do our best to expedite the process as far as it is within our power to do so. This is in terms of a new process. Due to national government budget cuts, the City is no longer able to offer the extra service of providing fire and flood kits to residents outside of declared disasters.

“Our solid waste management department will clear the debris. Sites will be demarcated and affected residents will be issued with a proof of residence certificate as proof of their residency in future when they rebuild or are issued with emergency kits in accordance with the disaster declaration. The City is doing everything humanly possible to assist our affected residents.”

The City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, visited the scene for a first-hand account of the damage.

Two Shoprite mobile soup kitchens were dispatched on Thursday to feed the destitute. Each soup truck can feed up to 1 000 people daily and will continue to serve meals of fortified soup and bread over the weekend. The retailer also donated blankets to Living Hope, the organisation collecting essential goods for those affected.

To donate, contact Living Hope on 082 465 9067.

Weekend Argus

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