Tue, 11 Dec 2018
22
Johannesburg

Police have their hands full as they try to establish the cause of the blaze in Alexandra, Johannesburg, which engulfed scores of shacks on Thursday afternoon and probe the attempted murder of a man who the community accused of starting the fire.

Police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said: "We do not have evidence of an arson attack and we can't label it as such yet... but we are hoping that the man recovers in hospital so that we could obtain a statement."

READ: Several shacks razed as firefighters, residents fight Alex fire

On Thursday, eNCA reported that at least 500 structures were affected.

Masondo also appealed to the community to not take the law into their own hands and urged all those who may have information about how the fire started to come forward.

Hundreds of people have been displaced and others have lost everything they had, except for the clothes on their backs.

Some told eNCA that they were homeless and had "nowhere else to go".

At the same time, questions about adequate firefighting abilities have been raised, with Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba blaming overpopulation in his city and surrounding areas and "stretching limited resources to cover more people and communities".

"Government should help the City in dealing with undocumented foreign nationals and together, help us regulate proper structures in which people could live in," Mashaba told News24.

The mayor assured residents that his priority was buying efficient fire engines because the shortage of the special vehicles was what Mashaba had conceded to as a crisis.

He said however, he was glad that the fire had not claimed any lives.

ALSO READ: More than 1 300 homeless after Khayelitsha blaze

"Over 20 fire engines are in the process of being procured. A tender is out, but I cannot involve myself in its processes... but believe it should be concluded soon," Mashaba said.

Mashaba added that he sympathised with those who lost their belongings and pledged "reasonable assistance" once he understood the nature of the challenge and a proper report had been tabled.

He said that he would also be "writing a letter to the home affairs department and the Human Rights Commission to seek ways to deal with overpopulation decisively.

Some civic organisations were on site on Thursday to assist affected people.

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