More than 20 shacks destroyed in Jika Joe blaze

2008-06-10 00:00

Fire razed more than 20 shacks at the Jika Joe informal settlement yesterday morning, apparently after a woman knocked over a candle and her shack caught alight, igniting others nearby.

The incident happened at about 2 am and shack dwellers were left in the freezing cold with only a few items of clothing and the household items that they could save from the raging fires.

Inspector Jack Haskins of the Pietermaritzburg SAPS Search and Rescue Unit was called in amid fears that some people might be trapped in the fire. Firefighters doused the flames and searches were made, but no victims were found immediately.

Haskins returned to the scene after sunrise to do a further search for possible burnt bodies, but nothing was found. “We searched the place again, but there were no bodies, so we are convinced that no one was trapped in the fire,” he said.

John Gutridge of Msunduzi Disaster Management said shelter will be provided for the displaced shack dwellers.

Shack dwellers at the informal settlement are under constant threat from fire and floods. More than 200 people are living in tents provided by Disaster Management after their shacks were washed down the Dorpspruit River during floods in January and February.

The municipality has taken the initiative to provide temporary accommodation for the people. A budget of R4,3 million has been allocated for an emergency resettlement programme that will build the temporary accommodation.

More than 200 people who are currently staying in tents will be accommodated in the free accommodation near Masukwana (East) Street.

This will later be developed into permanent accommodation. It is hoped that the informal settlement will be permanently cleared.

sandilez@witness.co.za

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