Fire guts homes, hall

2016-07-26 06:00
About 21 people were left homeless after a fire that gutted shacks at Die Gaatjie in Heathfield on Thursday.

About 21 people were left homeless after a fire that gutted shacks at Die Gaatjie in Heathfield on Thursday.

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The residents of Die Gaatjie informal settlements in Heathfield had a rude awakening in the early hours of the morning on Thursday 21 July as some of the shacks and a community centre were on fire.

Five families were left destitute.

In addition, the fire also spread to the community centre, which was of vital importance to this small community.

In total 21 people were affected, the youngest being a two-month-old baby.

Community leader Colin Beukaes says: “We lost our centre where we used to hold marriages, birthdays, anniversaries and parties. We had a lot of functions there and it is gone. We woke up to screams of someone alerting us about the fire. Some of the people could save their belongings but those were the fire started couldn’t save anything,”

The cause of the fire is not known yet but it is alleged that it might have been started by a candle that was left lit.

For more than two years these people have been living without electricity, Beukaes. “We don’t have electricity. We were depending on illegal connections before the City terminated them. Now most of the people depend on candles while a few have generators. This is very dangerous and we hope the City will bring electricity in the area,” says Beukaes.

Ward councillor Kevin Southgate confirmed the incident.

“Five shacks were destroyed. Emergency services have been activated to assist with the provision of emergency relief. Those affected had to stay with neighbours as they did not want to go far from their belongings that they wanted to save from the fire. The City supplied emergency kits to the affected people the same day and the following after the area was cleaned people were busy reconstructing their homes with the materials provided by the City,” he says

The affected families have all received relief packages of food, blankets and building materials to reconstruct their homes. “I have circulated a request for assistance with clothes and wish to thank in advance those who have indicated that they would assist.”

Jan Burger, chairperson of the Princess Vlei Civic Association says a permanent solution has to be found for these people. “They have been in existence for so long. This is the third time this is happening. Something must be done for them. People there, as well, should be extra careful especially when they know they don’t have electricity. Such incidents can be avoided by being very cautious,” he says.

This is the third fire that has gutted this informal settlement.

Die Gaatjie is home to more than 300 people that have been without electricity for years.

They were relying on illegal connection until the City disconnected them.

“About a year ago after someone was electrocuted and it was discovered that the informal settlement was receiving electricity from an illegal source. The City then disconnected the supply and started formal discussions to electrify the settlement. However because the land belongs to Prasa it required that certain processes had to be undertaken in order for the City to obtain permission before electricity could be supplied to the area,” explains Southgate.

Now the City and Prasa are on the final stages with the necessary documents to grant final approval after which the City will begin with the design and layout of the electricity grid before work can begin, says Southgate.


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