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Shelter for fire survivors a safe haven, but survivors remain disorientated by their loss

The Hofland Park Recreation Centre in Bezuidenhout Valley, Johannesburg.
The Hofland Park Recreation Centre in Bezuidenhout Valley, Johannesburg.
Image: Kgaugelo Masweneng

The Hofland Park Recreation Centre in Bezuidenhout Valley, Johannesburg, has become a temporary home for an estimated 150 survivors of the Marshalltown building fire.

Food, clothes, medication, medical assistance and hygiene services are provided for survivors, the majority of whom are men.

A manager on the site who asked not to be named said he was aware of another 56 people in other shelters.

A fire broke out in the Usindiso Centre for Women and Children in Johannesburg's city centre a week ago, causing multiple fatalities and injuries.

The manager said they have various stakeholders on board to provide assistance to survivors.

“Trauma counselling is provided, those who need chronic medication have received them. We haven’t had safety issues so far.

“Home affairs officials are at the shelter helping with assessment and documentation, Social development is attending to welfare issues, Gift of the Givers was handing out food and the health department was also on site providing medical care.”

Juma Moosa, who used to live in the building, said he had lost more than he had anticipated in the fire.

“I don’t care about the stuff I left in that building, I’ve lost too many people, and it’s not a place I want to go back to. Five people I knew and lived with, our brothers from Tanzania, died in there. We have told their families back home and we don’t know if we will make arrangements to take their bodies home or they will be buried here,” said Moosa.

He said that one of the deceased, a man named Charles, had succumbed to the smoke with his partner and child.

Survivors at the shelter queued for lunch with children playing, men laying in the sun and officials attending to the administration.

Justo Peter lost his business stock in the fire.
Justo Peter lost his business stock in the fire.
Image: Kgaugelo Masweneng

Another resident, Justo Peter, said his business stock was gutted by the fire, and as the primary provider for his family in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, he was anxious about the future.

“So far things are going well in the shelter, we are eating, we get clothes and we’re safe. But life is going to be tough going forward.

“I used to sell Tanzanian clothes in South Africa. My clients loved the unique materials and style, I did well so I would travel regularly. But my documents are in that building. I was doing well, but now I lost my stock and everything I owned.

“Back in Tanzania my family relied on me for support, they are also affected, I don’t know what will happen to them in the meantime because they also can’t help me,” Peter said.

The Gauteng health department has confirmed that pathology and mortuary services are free to the families of the victims. This after media reports that some family members had been asked to pay R700 for the release of the remains of their loved ones at the Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Service.

Anyone approached to pay cash should alert the police, or the provincial government hotline on the toll-free number: 0800 203 886.

Spokesperson Motalatale Modiba said: “The Gauteng Forensic Pathology Service renders free services when it comes to storage of the bodies and conducting of postmortems. Even the DNA samples that have been drawn from the unidentifiable bodies of the tragic fire incident and the antemortem swabs from families are free and being done by the South African Police Service.”

TimesLIVE

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