Swakopmund’s burning issue

Thirty shacks destroyed
Thirty shacks were destroyed and one person died in shack fires during June this year in Swakopmund.
Adam Hartman
Adam Hartman

This year already saw four shack fire incidents, with 30 shacks destroyed and one man killed during June at Swakopmund’s DRC informal settlement.

Responding to questions from Erongo 24/7, Swakopmund municipal representatives from various offices said that while shack fire incidences vary, the east weather plays a role.

There have been times when no shack fires were recorded during a year. “The recent fires were prompted by the east wind conditions. Due to hot weather and wind, the fire started and spread faster as most shacks are built with combustion materials, such as wood boxes, plastic and hardboard,” the response from the municipality read.”

Causes

So far, it was found that one of the fires was caused by a smoldering cigarette butt on a roof, and another by an electrical short-circuit.

The causes of the other two fires are still unknown.

Municipal firefighters patrol the various townships, especially the DRC settlement and surroundings, in order to be close if a shack fire should break out. The fire brigade is also on a 24-hour standby, and has a station near the DRC. Firefighters also educate the residents about the dangers of fires and how to prevent fires.

However, the problem is not simple to solve. People have settled at the DRC informal settlement for over 20 years without proper houses, and, in most cases, there are more than eight shacks on one erf. Should a fire start, most shacks will burn because of the building materials used.

Another factor posing a challenge to council is the absence of water and electricity. The municipality is trying to decongest the DRC so that the people can access water supply and electricity, and subsequently be encouraged to get prepaid electricity.

Social houses are also being constructed to reduce the number of shacks. Once the allocation or erven is approved, the people living on the erven will be allowed to construct houses, which are safer than shacks.

In the case where shacks are destroyed, which means the households have lost all their belongings, the mayor’s office does give mattresses, food, clothing and other necessities to people and businesses affected by the fire. Members of the public who wish to assist and donate items can also contact the mayor’s office.

The municipality also removes the destroyed fire remnants and cleans the area, as well as provide building materials to fire victims in order for them to erect new structures. According to the municipality, emergency shelters are also in the pipeline for the current financial year.

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