December 22, 2008 Edition 1 GUGU MBONAMBI Source: Mercury
DEVASTATED residents of the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Clare Estate, Durban, will not be spending Christmas in their homes after fire gutted nearly 30 shacks at midnight on Saturday.
At least 200 people have been left homeless in the eighth fire in the informal settlement since the beginning of the year.
Residents interviewed by The Mercury said by the time help arrived they had lost all their possessions in the blaze.
Those who went away for the Christmas holidays still have to be told of their loss.
A candle left unattended is suspected to have caused the fire. No injuries or fatalities were reported.
Khethiwe Vundisa, 44, said she heard people screaming and when she opened the door she was almost engulfed by flames.
“I managed to escape from the fire, but I was unable to save my belongings. I don’t have food to feed my children this Christmas and nobody has bothered to come and assist us. I don’t even have material to rebuild my home,” she said.
Tyson Dlamini, 30, said he had not slept since midnight when the fire started.
“I heard a loud explosion that sounded like a bomb. When I woke up it was too late and the fire was already here. I’m busy trying to rebuild my shack and haven’t slept since midnight,” said Dlamini.
While the men were busy rebuilding homes for their families, women and children were being sheltered by friends and relatives in the area.
Ward councillor Yacoob Baig said that by the end of today temporary help would have been provided for those affected by the fire.
“I have contacted disaster management to assist those affected with blankets and food parcels. I’ll also speak to various NGOs to assist with material,” said Baig.
S’bu Zikode, the president of Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers’ movement), said the government needed to fast-track the process of building houses.
“It is frustrating that some of the Kennedy Road residents have lived here for nearly 40 years and the municipality has failed to provide permanent shelter for them or at least install fire hydrants,” he said.