Fire destroys two families’ homes

From left are, Marie Fisher, Jade Manuel, 10, Anastasia Manuel, 30, with Tyra Manuel, 5, and Hailey Manuel, 8.
Two Manenberg families say a fault one this pole caused a fire that destroyed their homes.

Two Manenberg families say a fault on an electricity pole caused a fire that destroyed their homes and all their possessions, and they want the City to compensate them.

Anastasia Manuel, 30, who lived in one of the two wendy houses in the backyard of her mother’s property, says faults on the pole were reported to the City but they weren’t fixed properly.

Ms Manuel, her three children, her brother’s girlfriend and their baby, lived in the one wendy house. Her aunt, Rosiena Jaftha, and her family of five lived in the other wendy house on the property. Both wendy houses were destroyed in the fire on Monday May 17.

“I lost everything,” Ms Manuel said. “I was reading my Bible in bed, around 4pm, when I heard a funny sound. I switched off my television, thinking it could be that. Then my neighbours started shouting that my roof was on fire. I only had a few buckets of water, and it wasn’t enough to extinguish the fire. As I was running out, I saw this huge blue flame coming from the electricity pole. Everything went so fast, and within 20 minutes I lost everything, even my hairdressing equipment. Now I can’t even work.”

The families are now sleeping on mattresses on the floor of the main house.

Ms Jaftha and her eldest son, however, are sleeping in the remains of their gutted wendy house to stop their metal sheets being stolen.

Marie Fisher, Ms Manuel’s mother who lives in the main house, said they were now getting electricity from a neighbour who runs a soup kitchen.

Phindile Maxiti, mayoral committee member for energy and climate change, said all of Manenberg was plagued by illegal electricity connections and vandalism to municipal electrical infrastructure.

Ms Manuel, however, denied that they had any illegal electricity connections.

Mr Maxiti said: “Our electricity services staff and law enforcement officials conduct regular operations to remove illegal connections. As soon as it is removed, it is illegally connected again in many instances.

“Illegal connections remain a challenge as residents and mostly criminal syndicates continue to reconnect these illegal connections, placing tremendous strain on the electricity supply. Residents must please get reference numbers of service requests as a rule so that the City can follow up on particular requests and as their evidence of requests submitted, so that one can see when it was attended to.”

Ian Neilson, mayoral committee member for finance, said the public could apply to the City’s insurance claims section for compensation.

“They need to complete a public liability claim form and provide all supporting information, including, but not limited to, invoices in respect of expenses incurred and photographs depicting the exact location of the affected area and depicting the material damage to private property. It is important to note that each claim is assessed on its own merit, which includes assessment of whether there has been any negligence or omission on the City’s side. Once the City has received the resident’s claim form or formal correspondence, a reference number will be provided for all future liaison,” Mr Nelson said.

City Fire and Rescue Service spokesman, Jermaine Carelse, said the officer who had been in charge at the scene of the fire thought it highly unlikely that the electricity pole could have caused the blaze. However, Mr Carelse added, only a thorough investigation would be able to pinpoint the exact cause.

To report damage to municipal electrical infrastructure, send an SMS to 31220, or email: power@capetown.gov.za

The public can report illegal activity to 112 from a cellphone (toll free) and 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 for emergencies. Visit the City’s website to complete a claim form.

Call Ms Fisher at 072 036 2520 if you want to help the fire victims.