'Dysfunctional' hydrants hindered fire fighters in Durban shack disaster: IFP

City says its fire hydrants are not to blame

17 April 2023 - 10:35
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
Firerfighters extinguishing the fire at Dakota informal settlement in Isipingo, KZN.
Firerfighters extinguishing the fire at Dakota informal settlement in Isipingo, KZN.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU

An IFP member of the provincial human settlement portfolio committee claims dysfunctional fire hydrants hampered firefighters from dousing a raging fire that razed most of Dakota informal settlement in Isipingo, south of Durban.

Hundreds of people were left destitute when their homes were burnt to ashes after a fire started in one of the shacks at about 7pm on Saturday.

The IFP's Nessa Bhanprakash, who was at the scene of the fire, told TimesLIVE: “Though firefighters responded promptly, their efforts to put out the blaze were hampered due to congestion and dysfunctional fire hydrants in the immediate vicinity.

“Fire trucks had to fetch water from the surrounding areas, noting that in a situation like this, every second counts. The uneven and steep-sloped terrain also provided a challenge.”

The vast settlement is situated on land which is both steep-sloped and low-lying, also making it susceptible to flooding.

Bhanprakash said “overcrowding and substandard dwellings, coupled with the lack of space for effective fire breakers, will always be a recipe for disaster”.

“For far too long, families in this settlement have been subjected to this type of trauma. There were several previous fires and the recent flooding and now this monstrous fire.

“How much more emotional trauma must this community suffer? Recovery from fire is a long and difficult process.”

He said the predicament the community “finds itself in is largely due to the lack of political will by the ruling party to resettle them to formal housing”.

“I will be meeting with our provincial caucus with regards to engaging with the relevant authorities from the municipality to ensure that a safer and more resilient framework for safety in the informal settlements is speedily implemented.

“Communities that are resilient to fire can respond, recover and restore sooner. We should not allow an entire community to be burnt to ashes before we notice that our firefighting equipment/hydrants are not functional.”

The municipality said in a statement on Sunday no fatalities or injuries were reported.

Municipal spokesperson Lindiwe Khuzwayo said fires at informal settlements can be “extremely difficult to contain, due to how close to each other the dwellings are built. This makes it easy for the fire to grow to an uncontrollable size.

Nonsindiso Msizeni, 42, carries a stainless steel bowl she recovered with other items after her home was burnt to ashes.
Nonsindiso Msizeni, 42, carries a stainless steel bowl she recovered with other items after her home was burnt to ashes.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU

“The positioning of hydrants was not an issue and, in any case, had the fire brigade needed additional water supply, we would have mobilised our water carrier. The reason that we did not mobilise this vehicle [water carrier] is the indication that the brigade has sufficient water supply.”

She said while the fire was tragic, the city's “hydrants are not to blame”.

Khuzwayo said the city is gradually clearing informal settlements by moving occupants into formal housing. “However, by virtue of eThekwini being a large metro, there are multitudes of people coming from the rural areas in search of economic opportunities.

“Some of them are responsible for land invasion that results in informal settlements  mushrooming in our city. 

“To date, we have built more than 500,000 houses that are today homes to close to
2-million people, but this issue continues to be a moving target because of the influx of economic migrants.”

Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.


subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.