30 shacks burnt down in Philippi fire

Residents have begun rebuilding their homes with City fire kits

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Photo of the man whose shack burnt down
Oubas Vellem sustained minor burns to his face and hand after his shack burnt down on Sunday morning. His home is one of 30 shacks that were gutted in the blaze. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare

Over 100 people were left homeless on Sunday morning when 30 shacks burnt down at Sweet Home Informal Settlement in Philippi.

Oubas Vellem, 49, suffered minor burns to his face and hand while trying to save his belongings from the blaze. It is unclear what started the fire, according to a statement by the City of Cape Town.

“When I noted the shack next to me was burning, I rushed out and tried to push the shack over, but it failed. The shacks are very close to one another,” he said. Vellem, who is unemployed, said he lost his bed, stove and all of his clothes in the fire. He collects and sells recycled materials for money.

When GroundUp visited the area, Vellem was in the process of rebuilding his home along with several of his neighbours. Vellem said that he had returned from hospital without treatment after spending hours in a packed waiting room. He said it would take him some time to get back to his normal life.

“I have to [rebuild] the structure for my wife and three children,” he said.

Mthabisene Stafane, owner of the shack where some residents believe the fire started, said that she was not at home when the fire broke out. “When the fire started, I could not do anything. I stood helpless while the shacks burnt to the ground,” she said.

Stafane said she lost a television, two beds, shoes and clothes.

Another resident, Yoliswa Madwara, said: “We tried using buckets of water, but we failed to contain the fire. The taps are almost 20 metres away from us and we do not have wide enough paths between shacks so that we could speedily get to the taps.”


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