Residents in limbo after inferno

Many people were displaced, and two lives lost as a fire wove its way through the Vygieskraal informal settlement on Monday 21 October
Many people were displaced, and two lives lost as a fire wove its way through the Vygieskraal informal settlement on Monday 21 October

An interfaith meeting was held by the Athlone interfaith community to address the issue of the Vygieskraal informal settlement blaze which claimed two lives on Monday 21 October.

President of Service and Allied Workers’ Union of South Africa (Sawusa), Wilfred Alcock, released a statement earlier in the week on behalf of the interfaith community, in which he describes the incident as “devastating”.

“The meeting was held with the Athlone Ministers Forum and community members, neighbourhood watch and the community policing forum,” Alcock said following a site inspection, and interactions with the depressed community.

“The people said that about 200 shacks were razed in the blaze that left over 400 adults, 80 children and two newborn babies homeless from across a cultural assembly of locals: people from the Eastern Cape, and our African counterparts mainly, Congolese and Malawian.

“They do not want emergency accommodation as they are securing the individual sites,” Alcock said.

“After the City Council has cleared the area, they want to rebuild their shacks.”

The interfaith meeting was held at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgravia this week, where the policing forum issued a resolution to develop a breakdown-assessment profile including special needs and dietary requirements on how many adults and children are affected.

A task team has been established to address the urgent needs, such as providing trauma counselling.

“They are in urgent need of clothing, blankets and mattresses,” said Alcock. “The Lutheran Church in 8th Ave, Belgravia, has set up a joint operation centre and is the drop-off point for donations.”

Furthermore, a follow-up open air interfaith prayer service solidarity procession was held at the Full Gospel Church on 7th Ave, Belgravia, to the site of the “vlei” Vygieskraal informal settlement on Wednesday 23 October in the evening from 18:00.

According to police spokesperson FC van Wyk, fire broke at about 16:00 on Monday to massive effect, and the circumstances surrounding the fire’s cause is under investigation by Athlone police.

Van Wyk confirms that there were casualties.

“After the fire was extinguished the body of a four-year-old girl and another unidentified body was discovered,” says Van Wyk.

“Anyone with any information about this incident is kindly requested to contact Athlone police.”

According to Van Wyk, about 50 to 60 shacks were destroyed.

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