The housing crisis in Hangberg has intensified after a fire destroyed several City of Cape Town-owned rental units as well as informal dwellings, affecting more than 60 residents, on Saturday September 3.
This comes two weeks after residents who are awaiting permanent housing handed over a petition to ward councillor, Rob Quintas, calling on the City to continue with the Dallas housing development which was placed on hold following a Health Risk Assessment (“Dallas housing drama,” Sentinel September 2).
Two of five City rental units in Block L, situated in Salamander Road, were reduced to ashes while nine informal dwellings were completely destroyed.
The two families of the affected units are currently being accommodated at the Hangberg sports and recreation centre while other affected victims are being accommodated by family members.
And although the mayoral committee member for human settlements, Benedicta van Minnen, has confirmed that alternative temporary accommodation will be sought for the fire victims who are not able to remain in their dwellings, she says a timeframe for the repairs of the rental units can only be determined once an assessment has been completed and a contractor has been appointed.
Rashieda Adams, whose home in Block L was completely destroyed, said her neighbour, Cynthia Majiet, knocked on her door around 2.30am saying the house was on fire.
She initially did not think the fire was that serious as it was at the back of her house.
“I went to the back and could see the hokke (informal dwellings) behind the house burning. I then realised it was very serious and ran to get my three-year-old daughter, Moeshieda, from my bedroom,” she said.
By the time she had reached her daughter, the fire was already in her room and a neighbour tried to extinguish the flames with a hosepipe but the due to the strong wind his efforts were futile.
She says once outside, they noticed their dog, Tsotsi was nowhere to be seen and they realised he died in the fire while hiding under the bed.
Affected families claim the fire department took more than two hours to respond to the fire despite several calls made my members of the community.
Ms Adams says she does not know how long it took for the fire department to arrive but it was a long time.
“We stood there for ages watching the fire before they arrived,” she said.
Ms Majiet, whose home, also in Block L, was also destroyed, said she was woken up by a loud scream and when she went to her door she could just see flames. She alerted her neighbours and then left the house with her daughter, Antoinette, and son-in-law Rowan Baadjies.
She could not save anything from her house and believes it would have been a different situation had the fire department responded sooner.
Mr Quintas said the fire was exacerbated by strong winds and the fact that the informal dwellings had no gaps between them and had been built onto one another.
He said the damage was great but he was grateful that no injuries were reported.
Hout Bay Civic Association secretary, Roscoe Jacobs urged the City to investigate the allegations made against the Fire and Rescue services and said the disaster affected rental units of Ms Adams and Ms Majiet should be attended to as a matter of urgency.
“The victims of the fire are rent payers and should be treated with dignity and the current living conditions at the sport centre is inhuman for the two families who have no where to go,” he said.
Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF) co-ordinater for safety and security, David Weeder said the families currently accommodated in the sport centre are struggling.
“The sport centre is not a suitable place for them to be as there are various community activities taking place there on a daily basis which is an inconvenience to them.
“These families have been through a very traumatic experience and need peace and quiet to reflect on what has happened. They don’t need people and music and various class activities around them,” Mr Weeder said.
He has arranged for the affected families to get counselling at the Sentinel Primary School.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith said Fire and Rescue Service has systems in place to prove response times from the time a call is received to the time the first vehicle arrives at the scene of the incident and includes a telephone recording system, a radio recording system, and vehicle tracking systems.
“The Fire and Rescue service received a telephone call reporting the incident at 02:08 from a cell phone number starting with 063 and a second call from another cell phone number starting with 076,” he said.
Spokeswoman for Fire and Rescue Services, Liezl Moodie said the fire was attended to at 2.28am.
She says resources were dispatched from Hout Bay, Constantia and Sea Point fire stations which comprised of three fire engines, one water tanker and one rescue vehicle.
Ms Moodie confirmed that no injuries were reported.