By Natasha Prince and Murray Williams
March 09 2009 at 03:25PM Source: Cape Argus
Cape Town – The scene at Joe Slovo informal settlement was one of devastation on Monday after the south-easter turned a small fire there into a raging inferno that razed 400 shacks and left about 1 600 people homeless.
The fire started at about 2.00am on the corner of the N2 and Vanguard Drive.On Monday morning residents were scrambling to salvage whatever they could. Others stood guard over their property, cordoning it off with whatever they could find as they feared others might lay claim to their land.
Cape Town City fire chief Ian Schnettler confirmed that about 1 600 people had lost their homes and were being cared for by the City’s Disaster Management department.
The blaze is one of the most devastating of all the fires that have raged across the Western Cape the past month.
Thotyelwa Kaso and her daughter, who lived in a 2x2m shack, stood looking at their razed shack in disbelief this morning. Kaso lost everything, but said she would not budge from the site until her new shack was built.
She refused to go to one of the civic centres selected by Disaster Management to house displaced residents. “I’m going to stay here until they rebuild my house. What must I do at the hall?” Kaso said she was hungry and tired, but determined to rebuild her home.
Disaster Management’s Charles Williams said they were waiting for the cleansing services to arrive before housing officials would provide starter packs. In the meantime, hot meals would be provided to residents, he said.
Metro police and police officers monitored the area on Monday morning, stopping some of the residents removing electricity cables damaged by the fire.
Williams said it was not clear when cleansing and housing officials would start clearing the area. “But we would like to get (the residents) settled in as soon as possible.
“We always find that the community prefers to stay here and stick it out rather than go to the hall because they don’t want to lose their land,” he said.
Residents standing around in groups surveying the damage indicated that they were determined not to be moved to Delft.
Cope premier candidate Dr Allan Boesak arrived at the scene on Monday morning, apparently to see whether he could help.
Meanwhile, another fire broke out on the mountainside above Somerset West on Sunday, threatening the town’s plush suburbs of Silverboomkloof and Spanish Farm.
The fire devoured some fynbos and eucalyptus forest, but was contained.
Smoke continued to waft across the Winelands towards Cape Town on Monday, still from various fires on the slopes of the Paarl Mountain, which is burning for the sixth consecutive day.
o This article was originally published on page 1 of Cape Argus on March 09, 2009