Close to a thousand people have been displaced, and a yet-to-be-established number of people have died due to fires which gutted their homes in Western Cape, according to eNCA News.
In the early hours of Sunday, 01 January 2023, a woman died and more than 200 homes were destroyed after a devastating fire ripped through Polar Park informal settlement in Philippi, News24 reported.
The City of Cape Town’s fire and rescue spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said the woman sustained fatal burn wounds. Fire crews were alerted to the fire at 02:40. Carelse added:
Several crews were dispatched and the first arriving officer confirmed that numerous structures were burning. More than 50 firefighters battled the blaze, which was brought under control at about 06:00.
Carelse said the cause of the blaze was unknown at this stage.
The chairperson of the Polar Park committee, Teenage Mtiyane, 49, told News24 that the fire started at the deceased woman’s house. He said:
She died inside her house with the gas stove [on] and that is how the fire started and spread. Unfortunately, the wind also played its part in moving the flames to other parts of the community, which has left more than 200 people without [shelter].
There are people who have gone to other provinces for the holidays and have to be informed that their homes were destroyed in the fire.
He added that a lot of the residents lost their stokvel money, food, clothing, documents, and school stationery in the fire.
Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers said they received calls from members of the community requesting urgent assistance. The organisation’s Ali Sablay said when they arrived at the scene they discovered it was “worse than what we thought”.
Ali Sablay says they have been responding to calls for assistance since Friday. Said Sablay:
People lost everything. The situation is dire. When people saw the team arriving, they hurried to the vehicles to request help. Many of the mothers got emotional when they started telling us that all their children’s new school clothes and stationery were burnt.
The Gift of the Givers said they would remain on the scene until the full extent of the damage had been assessed.
Carelse said emergency crews and Western Cape police were on the scene conducting mop-up operations.