Two die in Khayelitsha shack fire

Victims of Blowy informal settlement fire were meant to have been relocated

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Two people died and seven homes were destroyed in a fire during the early hours of Sunday morning in Blowy informal settlement in Khayelitsha. Photo: Vincent Lali.

  • Six children have been orphaned after their mother and her partner died in a shack fire over the weekend.

  • Some of the people left homeless by the fire had lost their homes in a fire in 2018.

  • The victims of the 2018 fire were meant to have been relocated to land in Town Two, Khayelitsha.

A couple has died and 25 people left homeless after a fire gutted seven homes in Blowy informal settlement, Khayelitsha, in the early hours of Sunday. Some of the families had previously lost their homes in a fire that affected about 1,000 people in 2018.

Ayabonga Mafilika, the neighbour of couple Nomthintelo Cele and Siphiwo Siyolo, said she heard them shout for help as the fire consumed their shack.

“Fire fighters found them dead under zinc sheets,” she said.

Mafilika said fire fighters struggled to get to the blaze as the shacks were built too close together, and low-hanging electrical wires also blocked the path of fire-fighting vehicles.

Meanwhile, neighbours struggled to find water to battle the blaze as only one tap out of three in the area was working. “Water dripped out of the tap slowly, so we had to scoop water out of the swamps and throw it at the burning shacks,” she said.

Nomantombi Cele said her deceased sister, Nomthintelo, used a chain and a padlock on her door. “The fire fighters found her next to the door. It seemed as if she was looking for the padlock key before the fire overcame her,” she said.

Cele, who lived with Nomthintelo and her six children, was away with the children when the blaze broke out on Saturday night.

“My sister loved her kids and her whole family. Her death has broken my heart,” she said. “The kids now have no school clothes. We are all crammed at a family friend’s place.”

She said the family does not have enough money to bury Nomthintelo.

“We all live off the R350 government grant,” she said.

Although the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services has not determined the cause of this weekend’s fire, community leader Phumla Sotshononda said it may have been caused by a candle.

Sotshononda said some of the families who lost their homes this weekend had also lost their homes in the fire of October 2018. She said victims of the 2018 fire were supposed to have been moved to an area in Town Two. The victims of this weekend’s fire were on the list of those to be relocated.

“The City must relocate us to the serviced sites now, before another fire breaks out,” she said.

Pensioner David Tywini, who lost the shack he shared with his wife and five children, said it was the second time he’d had his home destroyed by fire. He said furniture, his fridge, bed and cupboard were destroyed.

“I lost the same things to a fire in 2018, but I managed to save money and bought them again. Now I have lost them again,” he said.

Community leader Boniswa Ndoda said the fire victims needed food, blankets, and building materials to rebuild their shacks. “We as community leaders are scraping cash together to help the grieving families bury their loved ones,” she said.

City Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said a call that informal structures were alight in SST Section, Town Two, Khayelitsha, was received at 00:40 on Sunday 9 July.

Carelse said crews from Khayelitsha, Lansdowne, Macassar and Bellville went to the scene and managed to extinguish the blaze just after 2am. He said two people died and 25 people were displaced with seven informal structures destroyed.

“The cause of the fire is unknown and the scene was handed over to the South African Police Service,” he said.

The City of Cape Town and provincial human settlements department had not responded to our questions about the relocation at the time of publication.


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