Fires Kill Two, Leave Hundreds Homeless In South Africa

Fires destroyed hundreds of shacks in three separate instances in Cape Town, South Africa, over the weekend, killing two people and leaving over 2,000 homeless, emergency officials reported Sunday.

They reported two fires on Saturday evening and one in the early hours of Sunday morning.

“An adult male and female sustained fatal burn wounds and were declared deceased by medics” in one of the informal settlements, Cape Town Fire and Rescue spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said in a statement.

The greatest fire broke out around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, engulfing over 150 shacks and displacing over 1,000 people in the Mfuleni settlement, around 30 kilometers (19 miles) southeast of Cape Town.

The cause of the fire is being investigated, Carelse said.

Shack fires are prevalent in South Africa and pose a constant threat to the destitute people of the huge informal settlements that surround major cities across the country.

According to the housing ministry, as of 2022, 12.3 percent of South Africans lived in shacks.

Thirty years after apartheid was abolished, land ownership and housing policy remain contentious topics in South African politics, and they will be a major topic of discussion in the upcoming May 29 elections.

Gift of the Givers, a South African Muslim charity, told AFP that it was delivering humanitarian help to the homeless in all three locations, including hot meals, clean drinking water, blankets, beds, and infant care products.

A few people were being treated for injuries, and one was still missing, according to the organization, which also stated that community halls were being set up to accommodate the displaced.

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