Two people die as fire rips through crowded backyard in Strand

Community leader says there were 13 shacks in one yard in Nomzamo township in Cape Town

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A fire ripped through this yard in Nomzamo, Strand on Saturday in which two people died and 11 families were left homeless. Photo: Phumeza Halonisi

At least two people died and many were left homeless after a fire ripped through shacks in a backyard in Nomzamo, Cape Town, on Saturday.

The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said emergency teams were called out at 1:40am on Saturday to a fire in Benox Street.Fire crews from Sir Lowry’s Pass, Strand, Somerset West, Macassar and Mitchells Plain fire stations came to the scene.

Carelse said the bodies of two men were recovered among the debris. They are yet to be identified by their families. Two neighbouring houses were damaged by the fire.

According to residents, the men were renting shacks in the yard with no formal electricity connections.

Meluxolo Nqikilitye, who was in one of the shacks that burnt down, told GroundUp that he was lucky to be alive. He said he woke up to flames engulfing his shack. “I rushed towards the door where there were already flames. I managed to kick the door open.”

“I lost everything including the tools I use for piece jobs,” he said.

Neighbours were furious at the weekend, accusing the property owner of having too many tenants without proper services in place like electricity. There were more than 10 shacks in the yard.

Community leader Simthembile Mfecane said they had tried to address the issue of electricity with the landowner. “The illegal connections were also affecting us, causing power cuts now and then. Unfortunately, our plea fell on deaf ears. He knew these people are desperate for a place to stay, that is why they continued to rent here,” he said.

A member of the family of one of the deceased came forward on Saturday, but relatives of the second man have yet to be found, said Mfecane.

GroundUp had not managed to contact the landlord, who no longer lives on the property, by the time of publication.

TOPICS:  Electricity Housing

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