…Eric Ndlovu described a blaze that was consuming shacks in minutes. “They caught fire so quickly, and just spread. You know petrol… when you extinguish it with water then you spread it around. People didn’t have enough water, or enough assistance in terms of extinguishing the fire.”
The community told Daily Maverick that the fire engine – situated across the road from the settlement – took twenty minutes to reach the scene of the unfolding disaster. When it did, they say it arrived with only a few litres of water. “After ten minutes they had run out of water and the fire still continued. It was really difficult, really terrible,” Ndlovu added.
When Daily Maverick phoned the local municipality to find out why there’d been such an inadequate response, Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Management spokesperson William Ntladi said the claim that the fire engine didn’t have enough water was nonsense.
“It is not that we didn’t have enough water. The informal settlement… well, we know how clustered it is. The heavy vehicle couldn’t go deep inside, so we had to send a small vehicle and relay the water into the smaller vehicle to reach the fire. The streets in between the shacks are very narrow and don’t accommodate the bigger vehicle,” Ntladi explained.
This journalist explained to Ntladi that she stood at the scene of the fire and that the area was alongside the tar road, and nowhere near the inner locale of the settlement. “I was off duty, I just heard about it,” Ntladi confessed and referred the query to Rogers Mamaila, also with Ekurhuleni emergency services.
Mamaila said the fire engines carry 4,000 litres on board, which get discharged at 400 litres per minute. “It is not an endless supply. The supply is only for one delivery, and it depends on the crew to see how many deliveries are required.
“That informal settlement may not have fire hydrants to replenish the trucks,” he said, adding that when the emergency services arrived the eighteen shacks had already been burnt, but that the crew managed to save the others.
“Ekhuruleni have trained CERT (Community Emergency Response) members, who are trained to deal with own fires prior to our arrival. We went into that same informal settlement house-to-house and educated people on how to prevent fires. A month ago a man died in that same informal settlement and they blamed us for not responding quickly enough. We have said they must walk or run to us, and in the meantime make use of the CERT members who are trained on advanced fire fighting. There are four CERTs in attendance there,” said Mamaila.
Makause is a compact settlement that the local government says is home to close on 30,000 people. “From the municipality’s side we have done everything we could have done. The method in which those people have built that informal settlement is wrong. When they build shacks they must leave a space of between five to six metres but they say there is no space,” Mamaila said, and explained that it was the compact nature of the informal settlement that made the outbreak of fires such a disaster. READ MORE…
image credit: Daily Maverick
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