No rest in hall for victims

A fire in Military Heights informal Settlement destroyed between 50 and 70 structures leaving about 100 people displaced over the weekend.
A fire in Military Heights informal Settlement destroyed between 50 and 70 structures leaving about 100 people displaced over the weekend.

A fire in Military Heights informal settlement in Lavender Hill destroyed between 50 and 70 structures and left about 100 people displaced.

The fire ignited on Friday and raged on until the early hours of Saturday.

Theo Layne, City of Cape Town fire and rescue services spokesperson, says the cause of the fire is unknown but is being investigated.

“There were no fatalities or injuries reported due to the fire,” he says.

Layne says fire and rescue services along and disaster risk management visited the scene to douse the flames and to ensure that those affected were safe.

Meanwhile, the Steenberg Community Police Forum along with several community organisations have been working tirelessly to help the affected families.

Lucinda Evans, chairperson of the Forum, says the families are in dire need of food, clothing and blankets.

“Many people have lost everything they own and desperately need assistance in trying to rebuild their lives, but our main priority is feeding the families,” she says.

By Monday morning Evans managed to have the Seawinds multipurpose centre opened to ensure that they had a place where they could receive donations and distribute food and clothing.

“We have over 100 bags of clothes which we will be handing out to the victims of the fires. While hot meals are also being served, we call on the public to assist us with more hot meals,” she says.

Ellen Zuthten, secretary of the Military Heights informal settlements committee, says they hope the hall will be made available for those affected by the fire to sleep in.

“We have people sleeping on their burned out structures, which is not conducive to their health or safety,” she says.

Zuthten says they are in need of a lot of things, which include building material, water, pots, pans and any household items that people can give.

“We would appreciate it if the public can come forward and help by donating to these families who have lost most of their belongings,” she says.

Meanwhile, Aysha Davids, chairperson of the Village Heights informal settlement committee, says they are also trying to help where they can as they have witnessed first-hand how a fire can affect people.

“My main concern is where people are sleeping during this difficult time. We would expect the community hall at least to be available to victims of the fire until they are back on their feet and their structures rebuilt,” she says.

However, Davids says the hall is currently only open for them to use as a place of collection and distribution.

“The hall is like a white elephant in the community and needs to be used for what it is intended for, especially during situations like we are in now, but it is not being used for that,” she says.

Ward councillor Shaun August says when there have been fires before, and shelters destroyed, people sometimes chose to sleep where their structures once were.

“They choose to do so to ensure that their belongings or what remains of it is not stolen. They also do not want to lose their plot or have someone else build over their boundary,” he says.

In response to whether the multipurpose centre will be opened for families affected by the fire to seek shelter, August says that decision would be up to disaster risk management once they have done a full assessment to decide whether shelter can be provided to families affected by a fire, as in this case.
“I have, in the meantime, had the electrical , water and sanitation as well as the solid waste departments come out to do assessments. The solid waste department has gone out to clean up the area to speed up the process so that people can rebuild their homes,” he says.
August says building materials have already been handed out to families to rebuild and some have already started reconstructing their homes.
“Food and blankets have also been distributed among those affected by this fire and we have put out a call to the public to assist by donating food, blankets and water,” he says.

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