Future bleak following blaze

2013-07-25 00:00

HUNDREDS of people were left destitute in Nottingham Road on Monday night after a fire gutted their homes.

The fire began around 10 pm and burned through at least 50 shacks at the Transnet Compound informal settlement. It also damaged two brick-built rooms in front of the settlement. Miraculously, no one was injured.

It burned through everything and by Tuesday, all that remained was twisted corrugated iron and smouldering earth.

The residents were later involved in a minor drama after allegations of a land grab. They had tried to prepare the land earmarked for a housing development nearby so they could put up tents there. The police had to be called to stop them as the land is privately owned.

Nthuthuko Ngcobo, one of the residents, said he was nearly burnt alive because he was sleeping when the fire started. “I was awoken by the neighbours as I had come from work dead tired and had been asleep since 8 pm.

“When I was awoken, the flames were already coming through my shack; I could rescue only a few blankets and just the clothes I am wearing.”

Ngcobo said he had moved there for work three weeks ago.

Community leader Nathi Ngcobo said the people were not trying to grab private land. “The community just went there with spades and that’s why it seems like a land grab. It was not with any malice. The community believed that the vacant land was where the government would build houses for them and that is why they thought there would be no problem if they put up tents there in the meantime,” he said.

uMngeni Municipality spokesperson Thando Mgaga said the land had been earmarked for development. “A plan to establish a housing project in the area for the victims has been approved … The victims, however, could not be allowed to erect temporary housing structures on the land earmarked for the housing project because it is still privately owned.”

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