City Vision

Tragic start to the year as inferno leaves Khayelitsha family's home in ruins

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Fire at SST, Town Two, destroyed 81 shacks on Saturday 7 January. PHOTO: mzwanele mkalipi
Fire at SST, Town Two, destroyed 81 shacks on Saturday 7 January. PHOTO: mzwanele mkalipi

A number of SST informal settlement residents in Town Two have been left homeless following a weekend inferno.

While some shack owners were on site when their shacks were reduced to rubble, those on holiday will be greeted by debris when they return to Cape Town.

Fanned by strong winds, the blaze started after 01:00 on Saturday 7 January and destroyed 81 shacks. It left 192 residents without shelter.

Four elderly women were reportedly treated for smoke inhalation by the Metro Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

Victim Christina Dyatyi, told City Vision she was woken up by her younger sister’s children. The children, aged 17, 22 and 24, were left to look after the house by their mother while she was on holiday in the Eastern Cape.

“My younger sister’s children just ran outside after they heard the screams of ‘kuyatsha’ without taking anything out. When I arrived, the blaze was already beyond control and we could not rescue anything,” she said.

Many residents lost their identity documents and valuable items.

Xolelwa Dyatyi (47), the mother of the three children, arrived on Monday 9 January, to find her shack in ruins.

“I ask myself, how will I rebuild my life and get what I had after this. What if I had come back to find three bodies of my children lying there dead," she said weeping.

Xolelwa (47) survives through the social grant of her 17-year-old child. She appealed to Good Samaritans to help with anything to rebuild their lives.

Charlotte Powell, spokesperson for Disaster Risk Management Disaster, said government officials completed their assessment and efforts are underway to assist the affected families.

“The Gift of the Givers and Sassa (South African Social Security Agency) are providing humanitarian assistance. Various City departments are on site and busy with assessments,” she said.

Powell said City of Cape Town’s Electricity and Water and Sanitation will attend to damaged infrastructure, while Solid Waste will remove fire debris.

The Department of Home Affairs was also activated to assist residents with identity documents, she said.

Jermaine Carelse, spokesperson for the City’s Fire and Rescue Service, said at approximately 00:50 on Saturday 7 January, the City’s Fire and Rescue Service was alerted to structures alight in Town Two.

“Several crews responded and strong wind was fanning the fire to the nearby formal houses. Six fire engines and two water tankers were on scene and managed to contain and extinguish the blaze at 05:30,” said Carelse.

He said one firefighter sustained second degree burn wounds to his right hand.

The cause of the fire is still unknown and no fatalities were reported.

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