Fire devastates settlement

2008-09-14 00:00

Durban’s Foreman Road informal settlements were ravaged by fire on Saturday morning, leaving many residents destitute and homeless. At least 1 000 shacks were razed by the fire and many residents escaped with just the clothes on their backs.

According to Mnikelo Ndabankulu, the spokesman for the Foreman Road Abahlali Basemjondolo branch, the fire was the biggest they have ever experienced as it burned down almost the entire settlements.

The fire started at the bottom of the settlements at around 3 am yesterday and burned quickly, engulfing the settlements.

At time of going to press, only one body had been recovered in the ashes and debris.

“We are not entirely sure how the fire started, but we suspect it was started by a candle. It burned almost every shack in the area leaving only a few standing,” said Ndabankulu.

The residents blame the municipality for their predicament, saying that the failure to control the fire is due to the fact there is only one tap in the settlement. The municipality in 2004 promised to install fire hydrants, they said.

The municipality’s decision to build tin houses for the victims was welcomed half-heartedly as the residents do not view the tin houses as a solution. “We appreciate their attempt to build tin houses in response to the crises; however, that is not a solution. We were promised [brick] houses by Mayor Obed Mlaba and that is what we are expecting,” continued Ndabankulu.

The KwaZulu-Natal fire department took a breather this weekend from the fires that have been ravaging the province. This weekend, they only had to contend with just one fire in Mid Illovo.

However, weather forecasters say that there will still be low humidity and high temperatures this week and this has put fire services on high alert.

Simon Thomas, operations manager for the KwaZulu-Natal fire protection association said that although there are currently no fires happening, they were on high alert.

“We are only dealing with one fire throughout the province, so it has been quiet. However … the conditions are still quite bad.”

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