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Blaze leaves one dead, 80 homeless

A shack fire in the Happy Rest informal settlement in Nomzamo claimed the life of one person and left more than 80 people destitute in the early hours of Monday morning (30 September).

The devastating fire, believed to have started in the shack of a sangoma, ripped through the informal area and gutted 47 shacks. The deceased is said to have been in the sangoma’s shack when the inferno broke out. The charred body was discovered by rescue workers on Monday morning.

Residents claim the sangoma managed to escape the flames and ran away from the scene. They say the fire started after midnight.

On DistrictMail’s visit to the area later that morning, residents said the area is not prone to shack fires. Nopink Mona (59) has not experienced a blaze in the area since settling down here in 2004.

“I live in a two-room shack with my grandchild,” she said. “We were fast asleep when we heard people screaming about a fire.” Mona added she hadn’t slept since.

“The fire spread so fast it was unbelievable to witness. We lost everything, including two fridges, a stove and a bed. We have no clothes or food. We have nothing . . . I also lost money and my identity document in the blaze.”

Another resident, David Mlangweni (59), also lost all his belongings along with a car parked outside the shack.

“I don’t know where I will get money from to buy another car at this age,” he lamented. “All I have went up in smoke; the raging fire was unbelievable.” t

Jermaine Carelse, spokesperson for council’s Fire and Rescue Services, confirmed 47 structures were destroyed in the fire, and 88 people were affected. “The City’s Solid Waste Management Department will remove the fire debris,” he said, “and the Water and Sanitation Department will replace taps that have been destroyed.

“The Informal Settlement Management Department will provide residents with starter kits to rebuild dwellings, and Sassa has been informed about providing humanitarian relief.”

Sergeant Mthokozisi Gama, spokesperson for Lwandle police, said the station was informed of the incident at 02:00.

“An inquest docket was opened following the discovery of a burnt body by firefighters in Happy Rest informal settlement. Our crime experts were called to the scene after the discovery. Residents of 47 shacks could not salvage their belongings from the blaze, and were left homeless.”

Gama added that the identity of the deceased was still unknown. “Medical personnel were called to the scene and the victim was pronounced dead. The circumstances of the fire are being investigated.

“The extent of the damage caused by the fire is still under investigation. At this stage, we suspect no foul play.”

Local ward councillor Simthembile Mfecane issued an urgent plea to good Samaritans in the community to come forward and assist fire victims in the rebuilding of their homes and in resuming their lives.

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