SCORES of shacks went up in flames in the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Clare Estate this morning, as firefighters battled to bring the blaze under control.
Black smoke billowed into the sky, drifting across Durban, and could be seen kilometres away.
By 10am, firefighters had doused most of the flames and had managed to contain the fire to a corner of the settlement.
eThekwini fire department divisional commander Alfred Newman said: “Between 60 and 80 shacks were totally gutted in the fire. There were no injuries or fatalities.”
About 200 people are believed to be homeless and Newman said the disaster management team would be helping them.
Shonaphi Nzulani and her four-year-old son were lucky to escape the flames.
She said the fire could have started in her dwelling.
“I switched off my paraffin stove, but I think my son switched it on again.
“I was at my sister’s house when I saw the shack go up in flames,” she said.
Nzulani said she tried to run back to save her valuables but she was stopped by an explosion. Her son was not hurt.
Dazed and confused residents watched in horror as firefighters tried to control the fierce flames.
Many residents risked their lives by running into their shacks to grab what they could. Some people were still sleeping while others were getting ready for work when the fire broke out.
Firefighters said they were confident they would be able to extinguish the fire soon.
Terry Goulding, the loss control officer for the fire department, said the fire caused huge damage: “Part of the settlement could not be saved and we will try to get blankets to those who have lost their homes,” he said.
Sanwell Nsingo, a spokesman for the shack dwellers’ movement, said they were tired of seeing their shacks go up in flames. “We don’t want temporary houses, we want a permanent solution.”
Firefighters were also kept busy at another location by a fire in Queen Mary Avenue near the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College Campus early this morning.
Some firefighters who were at the house fire had to rush across to Kennedy Road.
An officer at the Metro Police control room said the Glenmore fire was contained and there were no injuries.
The Kennedy Road settlement has been plagued by fires that have left many people dead and hundreds homeless. In November last year, a disabled woman was killed after her shack caught alight in a fire believed to have been caused by a candle that was knocked over.
In April last year a massive fire destroyed 100 shacks and caused the death of two people. Police also believed the fire started after a candle fell over.
In 2005, a one-year-old boy was burned to death. The cause again was a candle. The blaze also destroyed 16 neighbouring shacks.
Residents have been locked in battle with the eThekwini municipality, demanding the supply of water and electricity.