Blaze breaks out at Jika Joe settlement

EMERGENCY and rescue teams battled to put out a large blaze at the Jika Joe informal settlement near Pietermaritzburg yesterday.

The fire swept through the informal settlement, leaving more than 40 KwaZulu-Natal residents homeless and 10 shacks burnt out. One shack dweller suffered burns.

The smoke from the shacks close to the N3 freeway led to traffic congestion at morning rush hour. It is not clear what led to the blaze.

"I'm not sure how we escaped but I'm grateful that we survived. But all our belongings, including my children's school uniforms, were burnt," said Bongeka Madlokovu.

"People use paraffin stoves because it is winter. We are tired of rebuilding our houses all the time," she said.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Jeff Wicks said paramedics were called at 5am.

"When we arrived at the scene the occupants were running from their homes, grasping whatever they could carry with them. The cause of the fire is unknown and is subject to a police investigation."

Wicks said the fire spread quickly through the densely placed shacks.

"Firefighters managed to douse the blaze. An injured man was stabilised by medics before he was transported by ambulance to Northdale Hospital."

uMsunduzi fire department operation manager Essack Khan said they were alerted about the fire by one of their officers who saw the smoke while going to work.

"The informal settlements there are dense and it makes it very hard for our personnel to deal with the situation. But we managed to put out the fire before it razed more shacks."