Blaze consumes Jika Joe

2014-08-30 00:00

STRONG wind fanned a fire that broke out at the Jika Joe informal settlement in Pietermaritzburg yesterday, leaving about 200 shacks in ruins and their more than 450 occupants homeless.

Residents laid the blame for the blaze at the door of the Msunduzi Municipality, whose staff were removing illegal electricity connections from the settlement when the fire broke out.

The municipality vehemently denied culpability, saying it conducted disconnections regularly without incident.

It would nevertheless investigate the cause of the fire, said spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha.

“Why did they have to do this to us?” asked a resident, weeping as she ran to her house.

“We had no problem in the morning, but now after they did their disconnection our homes are on fire,” said the woman, who refused to be named.

The fire, which started at about 11.30 am, kept emergency services personnel busy the entire afternoon.

Some residents of the settlement watched helplessly as their homes were consumed by the fire, while others received the grim news at their places of work.

Lindokuhle Dlamini said this was the second time his belongings had burnt at Jika Joe.

“I am left only with what I am wearing. Everything else burnt down with my home. I was called from work and I had to run from Willowton Oil. It was too late for me to save my belongings when I arrived here.”

Msunduzi fire service investigator Rodney Trenam said they are investigating the cause of the fire.

“We had four engines on the scene. There were massive flames, six metres high, and heavy winds made it difficult for us to extinguish the fire as it was spreading,” he said.

Community leader Thembinkosi Magagula said this one of the biggest fires yet at Jika Joe, with almost half the informal settlement being destroyed.

“Today, we lost about 180 homes and more than 450 people are left homeless. Most of the people lost everything they had. We would like anyone who can assist us to come forward,” said Magagula. He said the homeless were being accommodated at the Tatham sports grounds.

Those interested in helping the victims can contact Magagula at 083 701 2977.

Sandra Pillay of Mama Ntombi’s Community Projects also appealed to those wishing to help to contact her at 033 342 6525, 074 120 0337 or by e-mail at mncp@telkomsa.net

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