Bongani Duma returned from his night shift as a petrol attendant on Sunday morning to find his home and all his belongings in ashes.
All he had left, as he scavenged through the remains of the one-bedroom shack he once called home, were his work clothes, R130 and a cellphone.
“It’s sad, hey,” he says, scratching his head. “I couldn’t even answer my phone when it happened, and there was nobody here to rescue my things. It’s one of those things, hey.”
It’s the second time this has happened to him. He also lost his shack during another fire in Imizamo Yethu last year.
This latest blow has been particularly bitter.
“I was saving up to go up to my family in the Eastern Cape. I even had a job lined up there. But I left the money under my mattress, and, as you can see, it’s ashes now.”
The fire destroyed more than 500 shacks in Mandela Park on Saturday night. Jermaine Carelse, the spokesman for the City’s Fire and Rescue Service, said hundreds of people had lost their homes.
“Swirling wind” had harried the 80 firefighters who had fought the blaze, he said. Reinforcements had been called in from 14 fire stations.
The fire was extinguished shortly before noon on Sunday.
There were no reports of injuries or deaths, but a firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation.
Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said the City’s Disaster Risk Management (DRM) staff had visited the scene of the fire to offer support to the victims and give them materials to rebuild.
They would also approach NGOs and the South African Social Security Agency to help the victims, he said.
A local NGO, Thula Thula Hout Bay, is helping with the relief efforts.
Joanne Chemaly, its founder, said fire was an ever-present threat for many in the community.
“A number of times each year, fires across Hout Bay leave many residents with little more than the clothes on their backs. Thula Thula Hout Bay was started by a group of residents, who realised that there is a need to be more prepared to offer support when this inevitable tragedy strikes,” she said.
On Tuesday September 9, Thula Thula Hout Bay carried out yet another relief distribution to 420 families, providing clothing, toiletries and groceries.
For Mr Duma, it’s back to square one as he plans to rebuild his shack and start from scratch.
“I want to go home to my family. I was saving the money to get me there and I wanted to take something home for my family, who I saw over 10 years ago,” he said. “God has a plan for me and he knows my heart.”