Weekend shack fires claim four lives, leave hundreds homeless

The latest fire razed hundreds of shacks in the Phola Park Informal Settlement, Philippi on New Year’s Day. Picture: supplied.

It was a grim start to the new year for residents of Phola Park and Du Noon, as fires swept through the areas, claiming the lives of four people, destroying more than 350 structures, and leaving more than 900 people homeless over the weekend.

On Sunday January 1, a woman died in the fire in Phola Park Informal Settlement, Philippi, where the City’s Disaster Risk Management officials confirmed that the blaze had destroyed 247 structures, with 760 people being displaced.

Fire services responded to the scene at around 2.40am and the body of the victim was found among the debris, said the City’s Fire and Rescue Services spokesman Jermaine Carelse.

The day before, on Saturday December 31, three people had died in a fire in Masiphumelele which was reported at about 2am. Three hours later the bodies of the victims were found.

The cause of these fires were still unknown and the City was unable to determine the number of structures that burnt down and number of displaced people in Masiphumelele.

In Du Noon, a previous blaze destroyed 106 structures, affecting 233 people, on Friday December 30. City Law Enforcement were also requested to assist with crowd control when some members of the public attempted to disrupt the operations of the firefighters.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith said: “Firefighting efforts were severely hampered by the structures built up close to each other – many of which were double-storeys, making it difficult for fire vehicles to manoeuvre as the space was congested.”

Gift of the Givers spokesperson Ali Sablay said their teams were assisting the fire victims in the affected areas.