3 dead, 4 000 homeless after New Year blazes

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By Kieran Legg

Cape Town - Three men died and more than 4 000 people were left homeless as fires gutted homes in Dunoon and Khayelitsha on New Year’s Day.

The BM Section of Khayelitsha was the hardest hit, with over 800 shacks engulfed by the rapidly-spreading flames. Around 3 000 residents were left homeless.

The City’s Disaster Management spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said the fire in the BM Section of the area began at 4.45am and was only successfully contained almost six hours later.

He added that the gusting wind, which had risen to speeds of 80 to 90km/h on New Year’s Eve, had fuelled the spread of the flames, making it challenging for firefighters to quell the flames.

Smoke billowing from the settlement also forced traffic authorities to close the N2 in both directions.

“The thick smoke affected the free-flowing of traffic, endangering the safety of motorists,” said Solomons-Johannes.

With the aid of a helicopter, the blaze was finally extinguished at 10.30am.

Otto Ngcebetshana, 35, Yako Nkusiyaba, 29, and Nkosiyabo Luko, 30, were killed in the blaze after they were unable to escape from their homes when flames engulfed their shacks.

Another man was taken to Tygerberg Hospital after sustaining serious burn wounds. At the time of going to print he was still receiving medical treatment.

The WD section of Khayelitsha also saw a fire sweep through the settlement, destroying 120 shacks and leaving 200 people homeless.

In Dunoon, a fire was reported in the Thembeni Informal Settlement at 1.12am.

The blaze destroyed 15 formal houses and left 220 shacks in smoldering ruins. According to Solomons-Johannes, 800 people have been left without homes.

The blaze also damaged an overhead electricity supply, which technicians are working on repairing in order to restore power to the area.

No injuries or deaths were reported in either case.

While the exact cause of the fires in all three instances has not yet been ascertained, witnesses claim the fires were caused by people under the influence of alcohol, according to Solomons-Johannes.

“For example, people getting drowsy and falling asleep with a candle still lit,” he said.

The city’s disaster response teams have assisted the victims of the fire with food parcels, blankets, baby packs, clothing, building material and emergency psychosocial trauma counselling.

The city has also made arrangements with the Department of Home Affairs to provide the victims with temporary identity documents.

Another fire sprung into life above Camps Bay Drive yesterday afternoon.

Solomons-Johannes told the Cape Argus that two helicopters had been sent to the scene to try to contain the blaze. According to some sources, 10 homes had been evacuated.

The cause of blaze is yet to be determined.

kieran.legg@inl.co.za

Cape Argus

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