BRIEF | CAPE TOWN 

Fire in Cape Town inner city slum

Families now have to sleep in a hall inside the building

Photo of burnt possessions
A fire broke out in a neglected Public Works’ building at 104 Upper Darling Street, Cape Town. Photo: Tariro Washinyira
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On Wednesday a fire broke out at a neglected Public Works’ building at 104 Upper Darling Street, Cape Town. The previous day GroundUp published a story on the slum conditions that residents of the building live in.

One man was admitted to Somerset Hospital according to Jonathan Karelse who lives in the building. The man had inhaled smoke while helping to put out the fire and he is an asthmatic.

Karelse said, “Five families were directly affected and nothing was salvaged. The fire destroyed flat screen televisions, fridges, gas stoves, beds, washing machines, clothes and food.”

“The fire started at about 12pm,” he said. According to Karelse the nearest fire hydrant was not working. Firefighters had to wait for a truck to bring water, delaying efforts to put it out.

Theo Layne, spokesperson for Fire and Rescue in the City of Cape Town, confirmed that the fire hydrant was broken due to vandalism.

Another resident is about to be discharged from Somerset hospital after two weeks. “He doesn’t have anything to come home to… He is only left with clothes he is wearing. Identity cards, marriage certificates and other documents are gone too.”

“We are also worried about our safety as the fire could have caused more damage to the [dilapidated] building,” said Karelse.

The fire is thought to have been caused by accident by a five-year-old playing with his mother’s cigarette lighter. Karelse said when they realised there was a fire, “we used water buckets to extinguish the fire but we were overpowered. The whole floor burned down.”

The affected families are now sleeping in a hall inside the building. They received toiletries and mattresses from the City’s Disaster Management. Reclaim the City came to support them and helped them with airtime and making calls.

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