South Africa: Three People Die in Shack Fire in Joe Slovo Park

73 people left homeless by the blaze on Saturday night

Three people died in a shack fire that broke out in the densely populated Ekuphumuleni settlement in Joe Slovo Park, Milnerton, in Cape Town on Saturday night. The blaze destroyed 20 shacks, including some two-storey structures, leaving 73 people homeless.

According to community leader Cowen Banjatwa, the deceased were from Malawi. He appealed to authorities to de-densify the informal settlement and provide basic services such as water.

“The deceased were my neighbours,” said Raymond Chiweshe.

He said he was asleep when the fire broke out. Another neighbour forced her way into his shack to wake him. He then joined other residents trying to extinguish the flames before he realised his own shack was on fire.

He ran back into his shack. “The shack was full of smoke. I could not see where the door was. I managed to open the door and I called 10111 … The fire was so intense,” said Chiweshe.

He lost all his belongings except some jackets he managed to grab for his wife and himself. Most upsetting for him is that he lost documents he needs to claim from his provident fund after retrenchment, as well as his Zimbabwean passport and his South African wife’s ID.

City of Cape Town disaster risk management spokesperson Charlotte Powell said SASSA had been informed to provide humanitarian relief. The City was clearing the debris.

City fire and rescue spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said they received a call at approximately 10:50pm. Forty firefighters from Milnerton, Bellville, Goodwood, Brooklyn, Epping, Melkbos and Salt River were dispatched to the scene. She said the fire was brought under control and extinguished at about 1:20am.

“Three persons – two males and a female – sustained fatal burn wounds during this incident. The cause of the fire is unknown and the scene was handed over to the South African Police Service,” said Carelse.


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