17 homeless as fire destroys quarry shacks

Yumnah Abass-Fortune looks for something to salvage after the fire.

Seventeen people were left homeless when a fire destroyed eight informal structures at the Strand Street quarry.

Residents of the informal settlement said the fire started between 10pm and 11pm on Tuesday August 2

“I was sleeping but I was woken up by a man, a deaf guy that lives here, making a noise,” said Yumnah Abass-Fortune, 35, who has lived at the quarry since 2020.

“I finally got up to ask him to keep quiet but when I got up I saw a bright light and I realised it’s a fire. Within minutes my shack was gone. I couldn’t save anything.”

When Atlantic Sun went to the site on Wednesday, Ms Abass-Fortune said representatives of the City of Cape Town had also been there earlier that day.

“They did not speak to us, just law enforcement people said we can’t build here again and no one has given us any assistance,” she said.

“I was walking home and I heard people screaming and then I saw the fire. It happened so quickly and when I got closer I saw my home was gone,” said Matondo Habib, 48, who works as a car guard in the CBD and has been living at the quarry for six years.

City Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse, said that the blaze was extinguished at by 11.51pm and that no injuries had been reported.

“The City’s Fire and Rescue Service received the call at 11.11pm of informal structures alight near Hudson Street,” said Mr Carelse.

“Fire crews from Roeland Street and Sea Point were dispatched to the scene. Approximately eight informal structures were destroyed leaving a number of persons displaced.”

Charlotte Powell, a spokesperson for the Disaster Risk Management Centre (DRMC), said the South African Social Security Agency would handle the relief efforts.

“The fire incident which occurred at Strand Street Quarry affected 17 people. The DRMC informed Sassa to assist with relief,” said Ms Powell.

Ward 77 councillor Francine Higham, said the quarry was a heritage site and that the people who lived there were illegal occupants.

“This property is a heritage site which is currently zoned as a sports facility for the public, but is not currently in use due to the ongoing illegal occupations,” she said.

“In order to restore the space for public use there are a number of interventions that we are working on.

“In the short- to medium-term we intend to improve lighting in the quarry area and also install additional fencing, while repairing the existing damaged fencing. There is also currently an application in place for the demolition of the ablution facilities which are damaged beyond repair,” she said.

According to Ms Higham, those affected by the fire declined alternate accommodation.

“Prior to this there have been multiple offers of social assistance to the occupants, all have which have been declined,” she said.

“Importantly, offers of social support will continue, while we also follow lawful processes to restore the space for public use.”

Concerned residents are urged to contact the City of Cape Town’s Street Peoples Unit (SPU) on 0800 872 201 to give details of those who are sleeping on the street and need social development assistance.

Matondo Habib and Yumnah Abass-Fortune go through the remnants of their shacks.