Two nights in the cold

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

More than 200 residents of an informal settlement in George Goch, Johannesburg, whose shacks were razed to the ground by a fire on Monday, have spent two nights in the cold.

The 81 shacks apparently caught fire when a jealous lover burnt his girlfriend's shack, accusing her of seeing another man.

The two lovers had a heated argument and he stormed out but allegedly set the shack on fire when he returned later.

The inferno demolished the shacks at Mangosuthu informal settlement.

This was the third fire in the settlement in a month.

Two weeks ago, 30 shacks burnt down and less than a week ago 20 other dwellings also went up in flames.

Meanwhile, police said that no one had laid charges relating to the fire.

Residents allege that the man, who lives in nearby George Goch Hostel, had started the fire.

"I just stood there and watched as the fire gutted my shack," said Mbuyiseni Vilakazi.

A woman was taken to Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital where she was treated for smoke inhalation.

Vilakazi and many others have lived at the informal settlement for more than 10 years.

He said the fire started at a shack about 10 metres from his at about 1am.

"As the other shacks caught fire I retrieved my clothes, blankets and kitchen utensils and took them to my uncle's for safekeeping. I did not think the fire would spread so quickly and cause so much damage," he said.

The three women who owned the shack where the fire started were not at home and have not been seen since Monday.

Emergency services spokes- man Malcolm Midgley said the cause of the fire was unknown.

Ward councillor Bheki Gumbi said he had managed to get food parcels, clothing and blankets for the residents.

In another incident on Monday, a woman died when the thatched house she was renting with her boyfriend at Linbro Park in Johannesburg, went up in flames.

"The woman and her boyfriend apparently had an argument and he stormed out," said Midgley. "When he returned the next morning the house had caught fire and the woman was dead."