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W Cape residents pick up the pieces a day after devastating fire

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A day after a fire destroyed more than 200 homes and left 1 200 people homeless in Masiphumelele’s Wetland informal settlement in E-Section, residents were slowly picking up the pieces on Tuesday.

Their efforts have not been helped by the inclement weather, which has battered the Western Cape in recent weeks.

The fire, said by residents to have been caused by a candle in one of the shacks, started at about midnight and was ultimately contained just after 05:00.

“The fire kept coming and coming,” recalled Thandiswa Yoko, a resident of the area for the past 11 years.

“When I heard someone shouting that something was burning, I got up, and went outside to check and as it [the fire] was moving closer and closer, I realised I had to alert some of the neighbours because most were asleep at the time.”

Yoko said she began moving things out of her house because she could see the fire was getting closer.

Thandiswa Yoko

Thandiswa Yoko, a resident of the area for the past 11 years, recalled how the fire kept getting closer and closer as she moved her things our of her house. (Kamva Somdyala, News24). 

‘Personal documents, textbooks for Grade 12 pupils’

“We’re now destitute. We’ve been given material to rebuild but as you can see, the weather may hamper our efforts. I have five children and on Monday I had decided to sleep at a friend’s house, but I don’t think I can do that again because the family also has five children,” said Yoko.

Residents and NGOs, together with the provincial and national government, are providing aid.

Charity organisation Gift of the Givers said it would remain in the area for as long as it was needed.

Its project manager, Ali Sablay, said: “We will be here on a daily basis and a service provider will provide food.”

Sablay added personal documents like IDs, birth certificates and textbooks for Grade 12 pupils were a priority right now.

“It’s almost time for people to collect their social grants, plus Grade 12 pupils are nearing exam time, so it is a top priority that people can still access their services and matriculants are not disadvantaged.”

Myeza Road, Masiphumelele

Residents collect clothes at the Methodist Church in Myeza Road, Masiphumelele. (Kamva Somdyala, News24).

‘The only thing I could save’

The City of Cape Town’s human settlements directorate will be issuing 256 building kits to the registered households that were affected by the fire.

Resident Nolubabalo Gobelo was walking back to E-Section after collecting her meal pack at the Methodist Church, which is 500m away.

“The bag you see is the only thing I could save,” Gobelo said.

“The rain and cold are my concerns now with the rebuilding. Luckily, I have family who stay in the same road as me. They housed me after Monday morning’s disaster.”

Gobelo remembered how, just like Yoko, she had heard someone shouting that there was a fire.

(Source: News24)


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