root - June 27, 2023

Fire destroys 50 homes, leaving families in the biting cold. 

Peter Luhanga

Residents of Ethembeni informal settlement in Dunoon, Cape Town, passed buckets of water hand to hand across the roofs of their shacks in an effort to douse a fire on Wednesday. Fifty shacks were burnt to the ground. About 200 people, including children, were left homeless in the biting cold.

The fire started shortly before 5pm. It took 50 firefighters with 14 fire engines to extinguish the fire by 9pm. There were no deaths or injuries, according to Jermaine Carelse, the City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson.

GroundUp saw scenes of panic with residents carrying washing machines, suitcases and gas cookers as they fled from the raging fire.

Nomakhwezi Ngendle was at work when her son called to alert her that their two-room shack was alight. Her employers allowed her to return home. She managed to salvage a suitcase of clothing; everything else was lost.

On Thursday morning, Ngendle and her son were straightening charred zinc sheets to rebuild their home. She spent R2,600 on new building materials.

Thandiswa Dayimane said she lost her two-room shack and belongings, including IDs and the birth certificates of her two children.

The fire started in a shack two doors down from hers, she said. When she heard her neighbour screaming, she grabbed a hammer and spade and went outside to help demolish the burning shack, but the fire spread to her own home. She only managed to retrieve a television set.

“I feel terrible. I am unemployed … I need to rebuild and at the same time provide for my children,” said Dayimane.

Community leader Simphiwe Bavuma said apparently an iron left unattended was the cause of the fire. Bavuma said 50 shacks were burnt down and about 200 people were left without homes.

At the site on Thursday, Gift of the Givers was assessing the extent of the disaster. Representative Pamela Kaptein said material from their warehouse would be provided to the families.

South African National Civic Organisation Dunoon branch chair Elliot Nkohla said his organisation had asked SASSA and the Department of Home Affairs to help the fire victims.

On Thursday morning people had started marking out their plots, preparing to rebuild. —GroundUp

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