More than 100 homes destroyed in Philippi weekend blaze

No fatalities but 362 people left to rebuild from the ashes

By Sandiso Phaliso

4 December 2023

More than 100 families lost their homes as a result of a fire in Philippi on Sunday. Photo: Sandiso Phaliso

A fire on Sunday morning destroyed 118 shacks and displaced 362 people in Amy Biehl informal settlement, Philippi, Cape Town. Many residents were left with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. Personal belongings and possessions, including ID documents, went up in smoke.

On Monday, people were busy clearing the site and some were rebuilding using scorched zinc plates.

“People are collecting whatever that is left to rebuild, so that they may have a roof over their heads,” said Simthembile Ngxotha, a community leader.

“Experiencing this kind of a disaster at this time of the year is devastating, because this month people are supposed to be celebrating the end of the year, but here we are sad, not knowing what to do next,” he said.

Mthobeli Sindaphi said he returned from work to find his home in ashes.

“The fire fighters struggled to access the burning houses because there were no roads. If there were wider streets not so many houses would have been destroyed. We want to be moved to avoid such occurrences in the future,” said Sindaphi.

Ward 34 Councillor Melikhaya Gadeni (ANC) appealed for donations. Building materials, food, clothes and used furniture are all needed.

“I don’t know where help will come from,” said Gadeni.

“The issue of the Amy Biehl informal settlement is that it has not been attended to for over 30 years, and there is no plan from the provincial and local governments to relocate or upgrade it,” he said.

Jermaine Carelse, spokesperson for City fire and rescue service, said at about 4:30am on 3 December an alert was received of informal structures burning in Bristol Road, Philippi. Fourteen fire fighting engines went to the scene and the City’s incident management team was activated. By 8:45am the blaze was extinguished. The cause is undetermined and no injuries or fatalities were reported.

Charlotte Powell, spokesperson for Disaster Risk Management, said their NGO partners and SASSA have been asked to provide humanitarian relief.