Coastal fires destroy 33 shacks, kill man

Temporary shelter set up in Mondesa

19 July 2021 | Disasters

ADOLF KAURE







SWAKOPMUND

Thirty-six shacks were completely destroyed during two separate fires at the coast over the weekend, claiming one life while leaving numerous families homeless.

According to the commander of community affairs for the Erongo police unit, Inspector Ileni Shapumba, 33 shacks burnt down in Swakopmund’s DRC informal settlement.

There were no fatalities or injuries reported in the DRC fire, but a young man died in a separate fire in Walvis Bay hours later.

It was alleged that an eight-year-old boy was at home in DRC with his sister (15) when he playfully lit a match and threw it into the direction of the gas bottle cooker and the shack went up in flames at approximately 13:20.

“The boy fled immediately, leaving his sister alone. She tried to extinguish the fire but it was overwhelming, and she did not succeed,” Shapumba said.

It was further alleged that after a short while the fire got bigger, engulfing neighbouring shacks.

Emergency service providers responded and the fire was put out by Swakopmund Municipality Fire Brigade officials.

A few hours after the fire subsided, affected residents were seen collecting some of the property left at the scene.

Temporary shelter

Swakopmund CEO Archie Benjamin said a temporary shelter has been set up for the affected residents at the Mondesa Sports Field.

“Currently, nine tents and 35 mattresses along with 35 blankets are available,” he said.

Swakopmund constituency regional councillor Ciske Howard-Smith has arranged for food donations through her office.

“I made this arrangement with the Swakopmund CEO. The people are not yet at the stadium, but the food is ready for the weekend,” she said.

This was the second big fire at the coast in just 12 months, after the Twaloloka fire destroyed shacks, claimed the life of a boy and left hundreds homeless in Walvis Bay in July 2020.

Man dies in Walvis fire

Meanwhile, just a few hours after the Swakopmund disaster, three shacks in Walvis Bay were destroyed during another fire incident. According to Shapumba, the fire occurred shortly after midnight in Kuisebmond.

“It is suspected that the fire started in the deceased’s ghetto as it is believed that he was busy cooking at the time the fire broke out,” he said. The identity of the deceased has yet to be confirmed.

“The water points, especially in DRC, are few and far between,” Howard-Smith, who is also chairperson of the Erongo regional council, said.

Although the fire brigade arrived on the scene quickly, valuable time to extinguish the fire was lost as the fire engine had to travel a distance to refill.

“This is worrying and it is important that we address this as a matter of urgency,” she added.

Additional reporting by Erwin Leuschner