WALVIS BAY – Cries of anguish reverberated through the informal settlement of Twaloloka in Walvis Bay yesterday as hapless residents sifted through ashes following a devastating fire on Sunday evening, which claimed the life of a one-year-old boy.
More than 1 000 people were left homeless after the fire destroyed about 200 shacks at the settlement, which is already battling rising cases of Covid-19.
Twaloloka is home to about 2 500 residents of whom 600 are said to be children. The informal settlement was a temporary space for residents who were accommodated in 241 shacks. At least 200 of those shacks were gutted by fire on Sunday evening.
Ironically, half of the informal settlement’s residents were supposed to be relocated soon as part of an initiative to curb the spread of Covid-19 that has already claimed eight lives at Walvis Bay.
When New Era arrived at the scene yesterday morning, several residents of the settlement were scraping through the ashes hoping to find anything that could still be of value to them.
“We lost everything,” said Emma Gawises who has been living at Twaloloka since 2016. She could barely hold back tears as she looked at her fire-ravaged home.
“The little we could rescue from the shacks was stolen by selfish onlookers. The base of my bed is here but my mattress is nowhere to be found.” According to Gawises, it is saddening that they are facing uncertainty, adding that the experience was very traumatising seeing that it was the first time they had such a fire incident at the informal settlement.
“We have always been so careful. We knew how close our houses were and always took extra precautionary measures to avoid fires for the past five years we have been living here. I never imagined this day would come,” Gawises added.
Another fire victim Olga Thrisalub said they were still in shock, as the fire caused a lot of damage. “Not only did we lose homes, but others lost money, personal documents, books of our children and food that was donated to us last week. We just feel naked and helpless,” she said.
According to her, they hardly slept on Sunday night as they had to help the Namibian navy set up tents they had donated to temporarily shelter residents. “We do not know what is going to happen to us. All we know is that we cannot rebuild our shacks in the same area that was burnt,” she added.
‘My son died while sleeping’
Meanwhile, Mandla Nafimane, the father to the little boy, Phillipus, who perished in the fire, was battling to come to terms with his gruesome death. Nafimane said he spent the whole Sunday with his son.
“We went home just before it became dark. The mother made food. So he ate and went to bed,” the father said.
According to him, his daughter within a few minutes came running from their shack and told them that flames were coming from under the bed.
“There was nothing I could do but stand and look at how my son in our shack was swallowed by the fire,” the emotional father said.
Help to rebuild
The high-level delegation, which was dispatched to Walvis Bay to assess the Covid-19 situation and headed by deputy minister of labour Hafeni Ndemula, also visited Twaloloka yesterday and were briefed by deputy commissioner Erastus Iikuyu.
According to Iikuyu, the toddler was the only known casualty, while police have started investigations to establish the exact cause of the fire.
Erongo governor Neville Andre on behalf of the government also visited the bereaved family, saying it was indeed a sad and unfortunate situation.
“What happened last night is very unfortunate. We are here on behalf of the government as the government will surely step up and assist as it is a government responsibility,” he said.
Various individuals, including political parties and pressure groups, have mobilised resources to help rebuild Twaloloka. Government has also stepped in through the National Emergency Disaster Fund to assist the fire victims, information ministry executive director Mbueta Ua-ndjarakana announced yesterday.