Inferno destroys homes of 35 families

John Harvey

ABOUT 120 people from 35 families were left destitute when a fire ripped through the Kurland Village informal settlement outside Plettenberg Bay at the weekend.

The fire, which began at 10pm on Saturday and lasted several hours, forced the residents – including 48 children – to seek refuge in a community hall, where they have been receiving meals and clothing from donors.

Although some community members speculated that the fire was caused by an arsonist, Plettenberg Bay police spokesman Lieutenant Marlene Pieterse said the cause was “unknown” at this stage and that investigations were continuing.

Callin Koopman, manager of the community centre, said he had received reports from destitute residents that a man was seen pouring petrol at the scene earlier in the night.

“But I don’t have any proof of this myself. We have been helping 69 adults and 48 kids with food and clothing. They really have nothing left,” he said.

“Fortunately the community has been so helpful in donating food and clothing, and some members have also volunteered to put up those who have been affected.”

Koopman said many of the residents were on a waiting list to receive RDP houses, and it was hoped the process would now be fast-tracked.

Mother-of-three Margaret Harris, who lost everything in the fire, was at a loss as to what she would do now.

“I don’t know what we can do. Hopefully we can just get on with rebuilding our lives. But I am very grateful we are being given three meals a day. I don’t know what we would do without the food and clothing,” Harris said.

Several residents, including Edwin Pieterse, have been assisting to clear what little debris remains on the site, which is the size of a rugby field.

“We were so fortunate that no one was killed, except for a dog and a few cats,” he said.

A shack belonging to Elise Finch and her partner, Michael Krigel, was one of the few spared by the inferno.

“It [fire] came so close to the house …

“Fortunately the fire department got here quickly enough to spray water, and our shack did not burn,” Finch said.

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