Scores left homeless after fire razes settlement

2012-08-22 00:00

ABOUT 45 shacks burnt down at the Mandalay informal settlement at Mandalay farm near Camperdown and scores of families were left homeless yesterday.

The Mandalay informal settlement residents watched helplessly as their shacks were engulfed in fire with their belongings inside as they could not remove them. By the time the firefighters got there, everything had been destroyed.

“The fire started at about 9 am when we were in my friends house,” said resident Nthabiseng Mokoena.

“The fire was quick to spread because of the material used to build the shacks. Most of them were built with wood and plastic.”

According to police, approximately 45 shacks burnt down.

Police said the fire was caused by a paraffin stove, but residents blamed a gas stove for the blaze.

Women with their children tied on their backs, who were standing near the burnt shacks, were shocked at what had happened to their homes. Some said they would move away from the settlement to live with their employers.

Mojalifa Hadebe, who lost his Toyota Hilux and his shack during the fire told The Witness he had lost everything.

“This is very difficult for my family. All we are left with is what we are wearing. My wife was at home but managed to come out of the shack alive. We are thankful that we are alive but with my salary of R3 500 I will struggle to re-build my family life,” he said.

According to Ntombenhle Masango, one of the bystanders whose house escaped the blaze, a gas stove caused the fire.

“Most of the shacks here use gas stoves, and I suspect that it was left unattended. We could not help remove furniture and groceries from the shacks because the fire was so fast in swallowing the shacks.” She had been a victim of a similar fire in November last year.

Children who were at school earlier in the day returned to find they no longer had a home.

Ward councillor Bongani Gwala said they are doing everything they could to try and find a place for them.

Xolani Muthwa, head of emergency services from Umgungundlovu District Municipality, said they are investigating what had happened.

Musa Ngcongo, the DA councillor, said two fire tenders and two fire vans were used to quell the flames. He said the informal settlement is situated in the middle of sugarcane fields, and without the fire trucks, the blaze would have spread rapidly.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said no one was injured in the blaze. Police have registered an inquiry docket and are investigating.

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