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COASTAL INFERNO

Dakota Beach fire destroys more than 300 homes, leaves hundreds displaced

Dakota Beach fire destroys more than 300 homes, leaves hundreds displaced
Fire rages at Dakota Informal Settlement in Isipingo, eThekwini. Gift of the Givers was onsite to offer assistance and support. (Photo: Gift of the Givers Foundation)

Families in Isipingo were lucky to escape with their lives when the blaze ripped through an informal settlement on Saturday night.

Hundreds of people have been left homeless after a fire destroyed more than 300 homes in the Dakota Beach informal settlement in Isipingo, south of Durban, on Saturday night, 15 April. 

About 1,000 families from the Isipingo informal settlement were affected. Many spent Sunday trying to salvage building materials and other items. 

eThekwini Municipality said no one had died in the fire and no injuries had been reported. 

Dakota Informal Settlement, Isipingo fire

Dakota Informal Settlement burns as the fire spreads in Isipingo, eThekwini. (Photo: Gift of the Givers Foundation)

“This fire is the worst the residents have seen,” said Neliswa Shazi, who has lived in Dakota Beach for 13 years. Her two children, aged 3 and 10 years, were in her shack with her younger sister when the fire broke out. 

“I was on the way back from a funeral in Matatiele when I was informed about the fire. We got home around 8pm to find that our shack had not been affected yet. I rushed in to try and save the kids, clothes, especially their uniforms. 

“Unfortunately, I had to leave the clothes outside when I went in to get more things. The fire got too powerful and closer to us. I had to save my kids, so I left the clothes there and they burnt. We got out with nothing but the things we were wearing,” she said.

Shazi said the fire spread quickly because the shacks are close to each other and it was a windy evening.

Isipingo fire

Gift of the Givers Foundation responded with aid of 570 mattresses and 580 blankets for victims of the fire at Dakota Beach informal settlement. Due to the rapid spread of the fire most residents were unable to salvage any of their belongings before fleeing. (Photo: Gift of the Givers Foundation)

Assistance

Humanitarian organisations, including the Gift of the Givers and the South African Red Cross Society, have given the affected families tents, warm blankets and food. 

Gift of the Givers spokesman Bilall Jeewa said they had received a call on Saturday evening to inform them that a fire had destroyed four to five homes.

 An hour later, more than 200 homes had been engulfed by the fire.

“Because of there being a shortage of water, the firefighters struggled to put out the fire. The water to put out the fire mainly came from the fire truck. The only communal tap they could get was about 300m away.” 

Isipingo fire

Redcross SA Staff and volunteers are on site conducting assessments after some 1,000 people were left destitute after their shacks caught fire in Dakota in Isiphingo (Photo: The South African Red Cross Society)

Jeewa said items such as blankets, mattresses and hygiene packs would be given to the families.

The Red Cross put up two tents that could accommodate more than 80 people each. 

Siyabonga Hlatshwayo, the provincial manager for the Red Cross in KwaZulu-Natal, said he was relieved there were no casualties. He said they were still trying to collate information about the number of children and other vulnerable groups affected by the fire. 

He said the Red Cross and other stakeholders were making sure that the families would receive support, including meals. He appealed to the community and others to help as there was still a lot that needed to be done. 

According to Lindiwe Khuzwayo, the spokesperson for eThekwini Municipality, at least 350 homes were damaged. 

“The city’s firefighters worked through the night to extinguish the blaze. They managed to save 50 dwellings. Displaced families have been relocated to a nearby community hall where they are being provided with necessities,” she said. 

The city’s disaster management teams were on site to conduct assessments to determine the nature and extent of the assistance to be provided, she said. DM/MC

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