‘We have lost everything’

Residents were hard at work rebuilding their homes on Wednesday August 30 after a fire swept through the informal settlement the day before.

Residents from Pooke se Bos informal settlement in Rylands started the long road to rebuild their lives and homes, after a fire swept through the area in the early morning hours of Tuesday August 29.

The fire left one person dead, destroyed 52 shacks and displaced more than 100 people.

Maruwaan Thompson, 29, did not make it out of his shack in time and perished in the fire.

Fire and Rescue spokesman Theo Layne, said firefighters had been called out just after 2am and battled the blaze for more than five hours. He said an electrical short circuit in one of the homes had caused the fire.

Almost three years ago, the City of Cape Town installed electric cables and prepaid boxes for all the residents there, at a cost of more than R875 000 (“Pooke se Bos lights up for Christmas,” Athlone News, December 17, 2014).

Mayor Patricia de Lille officially switched on the electricity on December 18, 2014.

When the Athlone News visited the area on Wednesday August 30, City tractors were still on the scene to level the ground, so that the residents could rebuild their homes.

Elizabeth Human said she and her family had lost everything.

Ms Human only managed to grab her family’s identity documents, and a few of her children’s things.

“This is the biggest fire we have ever had here. My son came to wake me to warn us about the fire at around 2.30am. We lost all of our stuff. Last night we sat around a fire outside one of our neighbour’s houses. We had no place to sleep. All we have left is the clothes on our bodies. It all happened so fast. My husband and his friends are now rebuilding our place,” Ms Human said.

Another resident, Hilda Barbers, said she had at first thought the loud bangs in the early morning hours were gunshots.

Later she learntthey had been gas tanks exploding because of the fire.

“I am very glad that most of us survived the fire, but we have lost everything. I have three children, aged 12, 6 and 3. I don’t know what would have happened to my family if our neighbour did not shout that it was burning. When the gas tanks exploded, it sounded like gunshots going off. The new place they have allocated to my family and me is too small though. We are five people – my children, boyfriend and I. The small size of the demarcated dwelling they gave us will mean that we will have to eat, sleep and bath in the same space,” Ms Barbers said.

Community leader Mieta Hofstander, with the help of two other residents, sorted out donations of clothing they received from the Mustadafin Foundation. These clothes were distributed to those affected by the fire.

Ward 46 councillor, Aslam Cassiem, was on the scene shortly after the fire.

Mr Cassiem and Ward 47 councillor and Sub-council 11 chairman, Antonio van der Rheede, assisted residents after the fire.

The City of Cape Town supplied residents with starter kits to help with the rebuilding.