Fire leaves hundreds homeless

Flames wreak havoc
Leandrea Louw
Walvis Bay • [email protected]

Another tragedy struck Walvis Bay when an estimated 150 shacks burned to the ground in the Twaloloka informal settlement in Kuisebmond on Sunday night.

A one-year old boy lost his life and more than 1000 residents were left homeless by the devastating fire that started in the settlement at around 19:00.

The Walvis Bay fire brigade rushed to the scene and battled for hours to get the flames under control. However, the absence of a fire hydrant in the area impacted efforts to contain the blaze, while the absence of any wind played in favour of the attempts to smother the flames.

While the flames consumed the settlement, the situation escalated into one of tension when certain individuals started to hurl stones at police reservists, the fire brigade, members of the media and municipal vehicles.

Emotions flare

Rubber bullets and teargas had to be used to get the situation under control.

Olga Birisamus, a committee member representing the Twaloloka residents, said that it was not the residents of the settlement that resorted to violence.

“It’s guys from the location who started throwing stones. They even robbed some of the people, snatching phones and taking belongings of the fire victims while people were trying to save whatever they could. We are extremely angry that they took advantage of this terrible situation.”

People that were left stranded as a result of the fire, were provided temporary shelter in tents.

Toddler’s body found

On Monday morning people searched through the ashes for any items that might have been spared from the flames.

In the far left corner of the settlement, a white blanket was the only sign that a one-year old boy died in the fire.

The boy’s father, Nasimane Maanda, said that he was with little Filip the entire day before the dreadful fire.

“His mother was at the shop and when she returned I left her with Filip and his sister Ndahambelele (7). She cooked for them, while Filip slept on the bed.”

Ndilimewawa (the mother) was visiting neighbours when her daughter called for her. “She came running to her mother shouting ‘mama, mama, there’s fire under the bed’.

By the time they arrived at the shack, everything was engulfed in flames,” a distraught Nasimane recounted.

Indications are that the fire may have started in the shack where the little boy died. However, the police are still investigating the probable cause.

The deputy minister of labour, Hafeni Ndemula accompanied by the deputy minister of safety and security Daniel Kashikola, Erongo governor Neville Andre, the mayor of Walvis Bay Immanuel Wilfred and regional and local councillors visited the site on Monday morning.

The governor conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the family who lost their little boy.

“What happened last night is very unfortunate. We are saddened by the loss of life. We are here to assess the situation on the ground and to see how we can assist those that have been affected by this fire. We feel your sorrow. Government will definitely assist you during this time. This is government’s responsibility and we will step in, every way we can.”

Pleas falling on deaf ears

Members of the Twaloloka committee expressed their anger and disappointment.

“We have been here for five years. Throughout those years we have been asking council to move us and to give us each an erf. Look what happened now. Parents have lost a child, people have lost everything. They only have the clothes on their back. Something needs to be done to assist our people and it needs to be done now,” Birisamus said.