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Fire victim: 'My 3-year-old keeps seeing the fire every time she falls asleep'

Corrugated iron sheets is about the only thing left after devastating fire destroyed a hundred homes near Paarl/ Residents of the Drommedaris Informal Settlement in Mbekweni, Paarl. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Corrugated iron sheets is about the only thing left after devastating fire destroyed a hundred homes near Paarl/ Residents of the Drommedaris Informal Settlement in Mbekweni, Paarl. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Dec 20, 2021

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Cape Town - Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers (GOTG) has responded to yet another fire disaster, this time in the Drakenstein Municipality, where more than 400 people lost their homes in a blaze that destroyed 120 shacks.

Drakenstein Municipality fire chief Derick Damons said the municipality’s fire services unit, assisted by the Drakenstein Farmwatch, responded to the incident in Drommedaris informal settlement in Mbekweni.

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“Approximately 100 shacks were destroyed, and one person was injured in the fire, which occurred at around 11.58pm on Friday. Information received points to arson, and the police are investigating.

“Drakenstein Municipality’s housing department will conduct an assessment of the area as soon as it is possible. It will provide disaster relief to all the affected residents,” Damons said.

GOTG spokesperson Ali Sablay said: “Community members, leaders and the Drakenstein disaster management in Mbekweni, Paarl, requested assistance from Gift of the Givers following a devastating fire in the area over the weekend.

“Four hundred people were rendered homeless when a fire burned through the informal settlement. To assist and provide emergency relief, we dispatched our standby teams to deliver hot meals, blankets, mattresses, water and hygiene packs to the distraught victims.

“We are aware that there are residents who had gone away for the holidays when this tragedy struck. To support them too we will come back to the area in a few weeks to assist them to rebuild, as well as to hand over essential items, including school items for the children in the community,” Sablay said

Neder Park community leader Mlungiseleli Ndara said: “I remember we were called here by the residents shouting about the fire. When I arrived, five shacks had burned down but soon afterwards the fire spread to other shacks and burning down a lot of homes.

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"We tried to put out the fire as best as we could but a lot of damage had already been done. It’s such a devastating incident, because people lost all that they had here, from their clothes, food and furniture to children’s clothes school uniform and documents.”

Drakenstein Municipality fire chief Derick Damons said the municipality’s fire services unit, assisted by the Drakenstein Farmwatch, responded to the incident in Drommedaris informal settlement in Mbekweni. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
According to Gift of the Givers the fire destroyed a hundred informal homes and rendered 400 people homeless. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
Community members and Drakenstein Disaster Management requested assistance from Gift of the Givers. Gift of the Givers standby teams delivered hot nutritious meals, blankets, mattresses, water and hygiene packs to the distraught victims in an attempt to bring some hope in the gloom and despair. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
Residents of the Drommedaris Informal Settlement in Mbekweni, Paarl, are slowly rebuilding after a devastating fire swept through this informel settlement in the early hours of Saturday morning. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
Residents of the Drommedaris Informal Settlement in Mbekweni, Paarl, are slowly rebuilding after a devastating fire swept through this informel settlement in the early hours of Saturday morning. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
Residents of the Drommedaris Informal Settlement in Mbekweni, Paarl, are slowly rebuilding after a devastating fire swept through this informel settlement in the early hours of Saturday morning. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
A man use a damp cloth to try and escape the intense Paarl heat. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Resident, and one of the fire victims, Bukiwe Mdangaye said: “No one knows how the fire started. We are assuming that someone left their candle on or their stove on after cooking. We don’t have electricity here so it’s plausible that’s how the fire started.

“I remember waking up and trying to rush my children and myself out before the flames got strong. I even managed to pull out a suitcase with our clothes and my medicine but within minutes the fire had spread and got to it. Our gas stoves and paraffin stoves exacerbated the blaze, though, when the shacks caught on fire,” Mdangaye said.

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“We lost everything yesterday. To make matters worse my children have been struggling to cope since the incident. My young baby girl, who’s just three, wakes up screaming, ’mama, mama the house is on fire’.

“They are traumatised, and I’m at a loss for what to do. However, I’m grateful to GOTG and everyone who has come to help us because I wouldn’t have known where to start on my own,” said Mdangaye.

In the aftermath of the fire, one resident, 26-year-old Lwando Sijayo, has begun sourcing donations to help his community by collecting clothes and other essential items to donate to the fire victims.

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