Shacks, substation and restaurant burn during Tshwane storm

Emergency services have their hands full

Malebo Mbele carries burnt corrugated iron sheets after shacks caught fire in Kameeldrift.
Malebo Mbele carries burnt corrugated iron sheets after shacks caught fire in Kameeldrift.
Image: Antonio Muchave

Over 60 families were left homeless due to a fire that started after a storm that hit Tshwane on Tuesday night.

The fire razed shacks that some residents called home for at least 20 years. Some residents were left with nothing as everything, including their documents, burnt to ashes.

Tankiso Molipi, a migrant from Lesotho who has been staying in SA for more than six years and had recently moved out from his uncle's shack to his new two-room shack in Kameeldrift, lost all his documents.

He told Sowetan he had just come back from work and was taking a bath when he felt heat in his shack while outside there were gale force winds.

Tankiso Molipi a resident in the informal settlent after a storm in Kameeldrift, near Moloto road in Pretoria east.
Tankiso Molipi a resident in the informal settlent after a storm in Kameeldrift, near Moloto road in Pretoria east.
Image: Antonio Muchave

“I woke my wife up and we quickly rushed to the neighbour’s place where my five-year-old daughter was sleeping with her friends. That shack had caught fire. We woke the kids up and rushed to the clinic where most of the residents were,” he said.

Another resident, Thomas Baloyi, said he was shocked that he survived as his shack was close to where the fire started. 

“I could smell smoke and then all of the sudden the house was dark and there was more smoke. I woke my wife up and the kids opened the door and I told them to run as fast as they could. That’s when I started to try to extinguish the fire which by that time was out of control. My money got burnt and the only things I managed to save were our ID and other certificates,” he said.

When Sowetan arrived yesterday morning, residents armed with hammers and shovels were trying to rebuild their homes as they said they didn't have alternative accommodation.

Tshwane emergency service spokesperson Charles Mabaso said the fire is still under investigation, however residents blamed people who have created dumping sites in the area.

“They usually dump things here and burn them so last night [Tuesday] they burnt things and then the storm and  strong winds came,” said resident Peter Mokgotlhwa.

Fires were reported in other parts of Tshwane on the same night. 

Lightning is the suspected cause of the fire at the temporary Pyramid substation built next to the Rooiwal power station. The transformer and its container were burnt. The fire then spread into the high-tension yard.

“Power was restored at Rooiwal power station and the fire was contained. A preliminary investigation indicates the cause of the fire was lightning. Technicians are investigating and assessing the scale of damage,” said the city’s spokesperson Sipho Stuurman.

He said the MMC for utilities, Themba Fosi, was on site and will provide an update soon.

Mabaso said it was a busy Tuesday night for the city’s EMS personnel with many fires reported around the capital city. 

Firefighters were called  to the Summit Restaurant in Garsfontein and were still at the scene early on Wednesday.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

“Only the second floor caught fire and was damaged. The ground floor, kitchen and rooftops were not damaged,” Mabaso said.

The Dorandia dumping site also caught alight. 

“Firefighters were dispatched and remained at the incident until around 4am on Wednesday,” Mabaso said.

Many shacks were burnt to ashes at the Kameeldrift informal settlement. He said the disaster management team was assessing the number of affected households.

Three shacks burnt to the ground in Soshanguve block K, but the victims managed to find alternative accommodation with a neighbour. A shack fire was reported in Soshanguve Block X but was extinguished with no injuries.

Johannesburg EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said shack fires were reported at the KyaSands informal settlement.

He said the fire was extinguished and two patients were treated for smoke inhalation and later transported to healthcare facilities for further medical care. 

“The cause of the fire is under investigation. We encourage residents in informal settlements to look after heating devices to prevent fires.”

Rand Water said several suburbs were affected after the Zuikerbosch water treatment plant's power lines were damaged on Tuesday.

Additional reporting by TimesLIVE

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