Shack fire leaves 6 000 people homeless in Masiphumelele, Fish Hoek

Cape fire wreaks havoc
03-May-2011 | Elvis Nyelenzi

ABOUT 6,000 residents of Cape Town were left homeless when a fire swept through their informal settlement on Sunday night destroying shacks

The residents of Masiphumelele, near Fish Hoek, said it was one of the worst fires they had ever experienced.

One person was burnt beyond recognition, while another sustained serious burns.

Community leader Mpilikhaya Nyumbana told Sowetan that half the shacks and houses in the area had been wiped out by the eight-hour blaze.

“The fire started at 11pm on Sunday night. Nobody knows how it started because it started at the back of a wetland in those bushes,” Nyumbana said.

“It is so wet there that we can’t understand how a fire started.”

He said 30 fire engines had tried to put out the blaze, but did not succeed.

“It blazed until 7am today (Monday). We found one dead person underneath a shack and we don’t know who it is.

“Nobody can tell if it was a man or a woman,” a distressed Nyumbana said.

ANC provincial chairperson Songezo Mjongile slammed the DA over the fire, saying because Masiphumelele did not have an internal road the fire engines had been unable to drive between the shacks and stop the fire.

“This is a catastrophe. It looks like Kosovo here. The worst part is that at 2am the fire had not yet reached the shacks and it could have been put out if there was a road for the fire engines to pass,” Mjongile said.

Social development MEC Patricia de Lille agreed that the fire spread because the fire engines could not get into the densely populated area, but accused the ANC of playing politics.

She said at a public meeting yesterday that the city would help the residents rebuild their shacks and allow for fire breaks in between the houses.

Mother of three children, Nomveliso Mziba, had been given four wooden poles and four pieces of zinc by her friends and had started rebuilding her shack early yesterday morning.

Homeless fire victims refuse to move

May 3 2011 at 10:00am
By Sandiso Phaliso

Residents whose shacks were burnt to the ground in Masiphumelele on Monday refused to move to alternative land while the City of Cape Town levelled the area before they rebuilt their shacks.

The City asked residents to wait before rebuilding their shacks so the informal settlement could have some sort of street system to enable emergency services to move freely in case of another fire.

Emergency services could not get to the fire because of the density of the informal settlement.

After inspecting the fire, Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato told a gathering of local community leaders that only 600 shacks could be accommodated in the area and that alternative land would be provided to others.

This sparked anger among some residents, who wanted to know what criteria would be used to identify the 600.

The residents wanted Plato to order that those who were not among the 600 be allowed to place their shacks on an open space adjacent to where the fire occurred.

“We will discuss that later,” Plato said but residents said they wanted answers immediately.

Akhona Mangaliso, 42, said the “people are refusing to stop rebuilding their shacks unless Mayor Plato gives them surety that they have a right to use the open land”.

Mangaliso said people were afraid the city might destroy their shacks if there was no written land-usage agreement.

Resident Nobesuthu Mntuyedwa, 45, who lost everything in the fire, said she hoped to be part of the first 600.

“The other land would take longer because we have to wait for the government to approve it first. If I wait, where would my children stay?

City risk disaster management spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said: “Despite the request by the city to clear and level the site before construction commences, the community proceeded with the erection of structures.

”This has hampered the recovery operations and the layout for emergency vehicular access routes within the informal settlement following the fire.” – Cape Times