13 November 2017

South Africa: Two-Year-Old Killed, Almost 1 000 Displaced in Durban Fire

A massive blaze razed a large part of the Foreman's Road Settlement in Clare Estate, killing a two-year-old, destroying more than 70 homes and displacing nearly 1 000 people.

The eThekwini Municipality has confirmed that 933 people have been affected, but added that it expected the number to increase.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said a tent has been erected as a temporary shelter for those displaced by the blaze.

"Hot meals and blankets have been provided. Interventions were co-ordinated by the Social Relief Task Team. The cause of fire is subject to investigation. We do not want to speculate."

Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele confirmed that the cause of fire has not been established.

"Sydenham police are investigating an inquest and circumstances around the incident."

However, Sbu Zikode, spokesperson for shack dwellers' movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, claimed the fire started when a candle fell over at the home of the two-year-old who died.

He said Abahlali attempted to raise awareness about shack fires for 10 years and that there were numerous fires in the community during that time.

"Shack fires are a result of the unequal distribution of urban land. The failure to provide basic services, such as water and electricity, to people and the inhuman conditions in which people are forced to live, including structures built very close together and made of highly flammable materials."

Zikode added that a lack of electrification in the area also led to the death of two-week-old Jaden Khoza.

Khoza died in May after police and the community clashed over electrification and "issues of dignity".

Khoza's parents claimed teargas was dispersed near their home, causing the child to suffocate.

Police however denied the claim and said Khoza had died of pneumonia.

"On that day [when Khoza died] the community was protesting for electricity. If free and safe electricity had been provided this fire, caused by a candle, would not have happened," Zikode said.

He added: "We are left to burn because our lives count for nothing in this society. A society that does not recognise our lives as human lives, as lives that must count the same as all other lives, is an oppressive society that must be replaced."

Mthethwa said the municipality was attempting to provide electricity for the area.

"To ensure that those living in informal settlements have access to basic services, the city embarked on an informal settlement electrification programme. This programme has and is being rolled out in a number of informal settlements."

Meanwhile, a firefighter was assaulted and two fire hoses were vandalised as fire crews battled the blaze in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Sydenham Community Policing Forum (CPF) member Satish Dhupelia said firefighting efforts were delayed after a fireman was attacked, apparently with a crowbar.

By the time the fire was extinguished, two children had to be hospitalised.

Source: News24

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