root - September 12, 2023

There were no injuries or fatalities, but the cause of the fire is unknown.

Fire victims have to now rebuild their lives from scratch.  

A separate fire incident in Witsand, Atlantis over the weekend left two people homeless.

Peter Luhanga.

A fire that ripped through Ekuphumuleni informal settlement left 51 people homeless after burning 14 shacks to the ground on Saturday morning. 

City Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson Edward Bosch said there were no injuries or fatalities, but the cause of the fire was yet to be established. 

City Disaster Risk Management spokesperson Charlotte Powell confirmed the blaze destroyed 14 structures, affecting 51 people.

“Humanitarian assistance has been requested from SASSA,” said Powell.

At the scene on Sunday morning, residents were straightening charred zinc to rebuild their homes.

One of the fire victims, Nomvelo Ndikandika, 38, a mother of three children aged four, nine and 16, said she had been sharing her two-room shack with her husband and the children.

Ndikandika said her husband heard screams outside and when he went to look outside and saw plumes of smoke and ran back inside to wake her up but she was too sleepy to understand what was going on. She said her husband kept telling her to wake up, at which point she grabbed a bag containing their important documents and fled to safety with the children.

Other than the bag containing her ID, children’s birth certificates and bank cards, she lost all her belongings in the blaze.

She said she was particularly heartbroken about her children’s school uniforms, school books, and the groceries she had bought on discounted monthly specials that were supposed to last the whole month.

“I bought groceries to last for the whole month. I didn’t want to struggle. All that was destroyed with the fire. My children won’t go to school. I am particularly worried about my 16-year-old as he is in grade 10,” said Ndikandika.

She said household belongings they attempted to salvage were stolen by people pretending to be helping.

“I don’t want to think about the incident. My whole life was in that shack,” she said.

Another victim of the fire, Xolani Conana, 36, who was living in his two-roomed shack with his wife and two children aged 11 and 13, said he, too, lost all his belongings except his important documents that were in a bag he grabbed as he fled the shack.

Conana said there had been “amaphara” [thieves] living in the shack where the fire started.

He said the residents had collectively agreed to not allow the suspected thieves to return and rebuild their shack. Instead, they would keep the plot vacant and install poles for a communal clothesline.

In a separate incident, a blaze destroyed a shack in Witsand near Atlantis on Sunday night leaving two people homeless. There were no injuries or fatalities, confirmed Bosch.

Like the Ekumphumeleni fire in Dunoon, Bosch said, humanitarian assistance had been requested from SASSA for the Witsand shack fire victims.

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