One dead, hundreds homeless after fires in Never Never and KTC

A devastated woman looking for her shack in KTC.

Residents of Never Never informal settlement in Philippi East and KTC near Gugulethu whose shacks were ravaged by fire are still struggling to rebuild their homes after more than a week.

One person died after devastating blazes struck the areas on Wednesday February 8 and Saturday February 11.

In KTC, Ward 38 councillor Suzanne Zumana said residents could not confirm the cause of the fire on Saturday. She said those affected were scattered with no proper place for them to stay.

“They had to stay the night outside while some went to their close relatives. But it was difficult for them to move away from the scene because of crime and those who collect rubble and steal their belongings. Should they all move, they will lose their material to scrapyard collectors. It is an unpleasant matter. There are those who are sharing personal spaces with neighbours or relatives. But we are trying all we can for them to get clothes and something to eat. That is why the Gift of the Givers is also here,” she said.

Resident Busiwe Mde, whose shack was ravaged by the fire, said she was staying with her daughter. It had taken about five minutes to lose all she had. “I went to the shop. Within a space of five minutes I saw smoke and I thought it was a bit far, but I heard people shouting. When I reached my shack it was on fire and I couldn’t save my belongings,” she said.

She is now one of those who has to sleep outside.

Mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi said the assessments have been completed and residents have been given some assistance.

“The City’s Solid Waste department is clearing the site of debris and urges residents to assist the City’s teams by moving debris forward so that all debris can be removed as quickly as possible,” said Mr Booi.

The fire destroyed 30 shacks. He added that City teams remain on site to ensure that the area is cleared as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, last Wednesday residents of Never Never informal settlement watched helplessly as their homes were ravaged by a fire.

Over 200 people are now homeless after a fire destroyed their shacks. Residents claimed one of their neighbours did not switch off cooking appliances during load shedding. They said when electricity was restored, the stove started burning and she had already left the shack. Her shack was engulfed by fire and it started spreading to other homes. One person died in the fire and the City said the family has been assisted.

Community leader Nowethu Sawutana believes that load shedding was the cause behind the fire. She said the owner of the shack was at work and she could not have left the stove unattended. “I guess something happened when the electricity came back. Load shedding must have been the cause,” she said.

Mr Booi said the city’s Informal Settlements Management Department has completed their assessments and verifications on site in Never Never.

Mr Booi said approximately 202 residents were affected by the fire and are receiving assistance. “The family of the deceased person have been assisted and are in contact with the South African Social Security Agency for additional support. The site has been cleared of debris and soft relief was activated by the City. Gift of the Givers is also assisting residents. Officials in the City’s Electricity department have completed their assessments and are in the process of attending to damaged supply infrastructure,” he said.

In both incidents, the fire victims said they lost all their belongings including identity documents, school stationery and uniforms as well as all their furniture.

Ward 38 councillor Suzanne Zumana lending a hand to people of her ward.
Debris was all you see after the inferno that destroyed shacks this past week in KTC and Philippi East.