Shack fire claims life

2015-09-29 06:00
A 79-year-old man died during a fire that burned through three shacks in 6th Avenue informal settlement in Kensington. The fire also left six people homeless.

A 79-year-old man died during a fire that burned through three shacks in 6th Avenue informal settlement in Kensington. The fire also left six people homeless.

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“We tried to rescue the old man but it was too late. Half of his body was already burnt, so he sat helplessly in the fire.”

So tells Michelle Johnson, a resident of 6th Avenue informal settlement in Kensington, after a fire on Wednesday last week claimed the life of a 79-year-old man and left six other people homeless, including her family.

Johnson was one of the first people on the scene to help pensioner Leslie Theunison as his shack was engulfed by flames.

Though the cause of the fire is unknown at this stage, residents believe it was started by a candle in his shack. He stayed alone.

Three shacks burnt down and nothing could be saved from them, though residents tried to douse the fire. But it was too late.

Most of the victims have been left with what they were wearing at the time of the fire.

Johnson, a mother of two, says she was visiting a friend when the fire started.

“There was a big noise, then a loud bang. I went to see and there was smoke. As I went back to my house and opened the door I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was met by huge flames and that’s when we called out for help. I tried to get my children to help as well. What pains me is that children lost everything and those going to school had nothing left, so they need help,” she says.

She adds that their fire-fighting effort wasn’t easy because of wind.

“The wind made everything impossible.

“My son came back to me, telling me they couldn’t take Uncle Leslies out of his shack. It really hurts and we couldn’t save anything from our houses. What really tears my heart apart is that the old man was trapped in the fire and we couldn’t take him out. The flames were too strong and everyone came out to help, but there was only so much that we could do,” she says.

Fire and rescue spokesperson Theo Layne confirms the incident: “Three structures burnt down and six people were displaced. One adult man sustained fatal burns.
“The cause of the fire is undetermined at this stage. The incident has been handed over to police.”
The victims are being housed at a nearby crèche until their shacks can be rebuilt. City’s disaster management helped the victims with building material.
Kenfac Ratepayers’ Association and the Peace Builders have helped the fire victims with re-building their shacks and food.

Ricardo van Niekerk of the Peace Builders says residents have been helpful.

“We are really thankful to those who helped and there is still more that needs to be done, as they lost everything in their houses.There are scholl going kids who still need uniforms, shoes and other things. Parents also need clothes, anything at this moment can help,” he says.
While neighbours have tried to donate what they could, the victims need more clothes, blankets and shoes.
Those who want to donate can contact Johnson on 078 215 6465 or Mariam Oli­ver on 081 242 9646 or drop their donations at 94 Acre Road.

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