Couple dies in shack fire in Kraaifontein

Wallacedene shack dwellers say they had no water to extinguish the blaze

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Photo of burnt shacks
A fire swept through 28 shacks and displaced 83 people in Wallacedene, Kraaifontein, around 2am on Sunday. Photo: Vincent Lali

A couple died and another shack dweller sustained serious injuries when a fire swept through 28 homes and displaced 83 people in Wallacedene, Kraaifontein, around 2am on Sunday.

Community leader Thobani Mathole said firefighters had found the bodies of Mavis and Tsepang Khau “lying beneath charred zinc sheets”.

Mathole said the owner of the shack in which the fire started had been rushed to Kraaifontein Day Hospital for burn wounds. “We don’t know what caused the fire,” he said.

Hlelinjani Bholitye said his neighbour’s screams woke him. “When I opened the door, I saw a big fire rise from the burning shacks and grabbed my ID before I jumped out of my shack,” he said.

“We used all the water we stored in our buckets inside our shacks. After it ran out, we watched helplessly as the fire ravaged our shacks … I stood and watched over my building materials for the whole night,” he said, exhausted.

Mathole said he watched the fire spread from one shack to another while the residents battled to find water to douse it. “The residents resorted to dismantling their shacks instead of putting the fire out as the existing water taps were not producing water,” he said.

“Firefighters could not enter the area to douse the fire where shacks burned because we have no roads and the shacks are closely clustered,” he said.

Mathole said the firefighters had to park their vehicle on Mfeketo Street nearby and walk to the burning shacks.

Community leader Thembelani Mzola said the shack dwellers had demanded standpipes from the City of Cape Town in a memorandum handed to the Kraaifontein municipality in 2018.

Xanthea Limberg, Mayco Member for Water and Waste, said the fire had melted two standpipes with four taps in the settlement. The City would reinstall the two standpipes on Tuesday, she said.

One of the survivors who lost their shacks, Desiree Afrikaner, said she had managed to save her ID so she could collect her disability grant. But she had lost her medication in the blaze and was now defaulting on her treatment.

When GroundUp saw her she was pushing a trolley filled with charred dishes, two-burner stoves and pieces of corrugated iron. “We are going to sell these to a scrap dealer so that we can buy food. We are hungry because we have no food to cook,” she said.

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TOPICS:  Fire Housing Water

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