15 March 2013

South Africa: Two Killed, Thousands Homeless After Stellenbosch Fire

Cape Town — Two people were killed and thousands left homeless when a fire razed homes at the Khayamandi informal settlement in Stellenbosch, a town in the winelands of the Western Cape.

According to Constable S. Mbombela of the area's police station, the fire broke out last night in O–Zone and the firefighters battled the inferno for six hours.

When Allafrica visited the informal settlement, some shacks were still burning while residents started to build makeshift shelters for the night.

The head of disaster management for the town Shezayd Seigels confirmed that, with more than 600 informal settlements destroyed and at least 2 500 people affected, community members are in desperate need of aid and assistance.

Noliswa Ndwambi, a mother of two, said that she lost all her belongings in the inferno, including blankets, furniture and household items.

"I don't know where I will sleep and I have no food, everything has been destroyed by the fire and I hope the government will help us," she said tearfully.

However, the disaster management said that the municipal hall is now available to accommodate the fire victims, although they anticipate that most of them will sleep with their relatives as they seek to safeguard their belongings.

Fortunately, local NGOs, churches and the City of Cape Town has offered to assist with food, blankets, meals and counselling, " Seigels said.

The cause of the fire has not yet been established.

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