Five displaces five families

Rivona van Wyk, 43, rummages through the remains of her burnt house.

On the first day of South Africa’s nationwide lockdown last Friday, five Kuils River families were left homeless after a fire swept through the backyard of a Lupin Street property, in Sarepta.

Rivona van Wyk, 43, who lives in the main house on the property, said she had been visiting her neighbour when she heard her family, who stay in wendy houses in the backyard, screaming for help.

“Die bungalows brandt,” she heard as she saw the asbestos roof sheets of her home, crack and cave in.

The fire destroyed four wendy houses and the main house.

All 19 people, including a 3-month-old baby – escaped the flames.

However, the family lost everything in the fire. They are staying with relatives and friends while their homes are being rebuilt.

Ms Van Wyk said the children were still shaken and the family were trying to figure out where and how the fire started.

“We don’t know what happened at that time and no one knows who started the fire. I am happy that all of them are safe, but we are struggling financially, it will be hard to get back all the things we had.”

Money, bank cards, IDs, food and clothes went up in smoke, she said.

“I can’t even step into my home, at least what’s left of it. I cry every time I look at it because everything that we built over the years was lost in a fire that only lasted a few hours.”

The City’s Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse said fire crews from Bellville, Kuils River and Mfuleni had been on the scene just before 5pm. “No injuries or fatalities were recorded and the cause of fire is undetermined,” he said.

City Disaster Risk Management spokeswoman Charlotte Powell said housing starter kits had been issued to the fire victims.

Neighbour Melanie Jacobs said the family needed food, beds and other essentials.

“I am happy that the family is unharmed but cannot stand to see them go hungry for the rest of the month,” she said.

“It was sad to the family struggle to put out the flames with buckets of water and sand until fire services arrived. They then tried looking through the rubble but couldn’t salvage anything,” she said.

Ms Jacobs is urging the community to help the family with any donations.

Call her at 078 113 8766 if you can help.