Johannesburg – Relief efforts were under way on Friday in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township after a fire swept through about 500 shacks the previous afternoon, razing scores to the ground and leaving hundreds of people without shelter, food and clothes.
Aid group Gift of the Givers said its teams were on site in the area. It said it had moved a mother who had given birth a day earlier, and another with four children who lost everything in the fire, to its logistics centre in Bramley.
“Exact details as to the cause, loss of lives, number of homes destroyed, numbers of people displaced, extent of material loss is not quantifiable currently,” the aid group said.
“Our teams are registering the rest of the victims and transporting them to a nearby hall where we are providing food, bottled water, blankets and mattresses. During the course of today further appropriate interventions will be effected.”
Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) spokeswoman Nana Radebe said there were no fatalities or injuries as a direct result of the fire at the Greenville informal settlement on Vincent Tshbalala Road, formerly London Road.
“It is alleged two people were fighting when the fire started but police are yet to investigate and confirm the issue,” she told African News Agency.
Emergency services were still compiling a list of families displaced by the fire, which Radabe said had been completely put out.
City of Johannesburg member of the mayoral council for public safety Michael Sun said the EMS had dispatched three fire engines to the scene to extinguish the blaze on Thursday but battled to find a fire hydrant in the area.
The only nearby fire hydrant could not be fully utilised because of low water pressure and fire engines ultimately had to replenish the water tank every 20 minutes, making several trips back and forth.
“It is most unfortunate that building shacks on top of the fire hydrants is common practice in the area. The remaining available fire hydrants are often vandalised,” Sun said in a statement.
“EMS is thankful for the additional water tankers which was provided by the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality in assisting the firefighting efforts.”
He said emergency shelters were being arranged by the Disaster Management Unit, and also acknowledged the efforts of other organisations such as Gift of the Givers, Zaka International Rescue Unit, as well as retailer Pick n Pay which had provided food for affected residents, the Al-Imdaad Foundation which had assisted with rehabilitation resources for fire fighters and car rental firm Pace which had provided a truck to move household goods.
“The City together with its relief partners will continue to provide food, blankets, hygiene packs and other materials in order to assist the victims of this devastating fire,” said Sun.
The Johannesburg EMS said via its Twitter account temporary shelter had been activated at Eastbank community hall.
Private security firm Vision Tactical said its team would remain on site to assist with assessments of the damage and provide some relief to victims.
African News Agency/ANA