Fire leaves 4 000 displaced

2010-08-10 00:00

ABOUT 4 000 residents of Durban’s Kennedy Road informal settlement were displaced in yesterday’s chilly weather when fire gutted about 2 000 shacks on Sunday night.

The fire, which saw Durban Metropolitan Municipality firefighters battling to quel the flames for almost six hours, is the second to ravage the settlement in less than a month.

It is alleged that the fire started when illegally connected electricity wires shorted.

Police spokesperson Colonel Vincent Mdunge said a strong wind, which blew across Durban on Sunday night, made it more difficult for firefighters to contain the blaze.

“We can confirm that 4 000 people were left stranded when about 2 000 shacks burnt down between 10 pm and 5 am. Many of those people were treated for smoke inhalation, while two young children were treated for minor injuries, which they sustained while trying to escape,” he said.

Mdunge said residents of Kennedy Road do not have electricity in their houses and they get power by illegally connecting wires to nearby mains cables.

He said this is the fifth fire incident in the settlement in the past few months. He said, however, that he could not link illegal electricity connections to all the incidents.

“The fact that these people use plastic and papers to build their houses and also use gas and paraffin stoves for cooking makes them vulnerable to fires. They had their houses buildt too close to each other,” said Mdunge.

However, he insisted that illegal connections are the major contributor to the fires. “We have been warning that they must stop illegal connections,” he said.

The victims were moved to local community halls, churches and other public places overnight, says Mdunge, adding that some NGOs have since come on board to assist the victims with clothes, blankets and food.

“No one had a chance to rescue their belongings from the fire. These people are left with nothing,” he said.

A firefighter who declined to be named said fire crews were able to completely extinguish the fire only at about 9 am yesterday.

One of the people who went to the scene yesterday morning said he saw residentds packed into the local Jabulani Hall.

“Woman and children were in blankets because the weather is very cold in Durban today,” he added.

The man said other people were busy putting up poles with the aim of rebuilding their homes.

Newspapers reported last month that about 2 000 residents in the settlement were left stranded when 600 shacks were destroyed.

Following the disaster, the victims were provided with building materials to rebuild their homes.

In April, a fire destroyed about 200 shacks.

Metro spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng confirmed that there is a huge problem with illegal electricity connections in Durban’s informal settlements.

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