On Sunday, 3rd June 2018, a fire started after 9pm (21h00) in the informal settlement of Qolweni (ward 3) in the Bitou municipality.
According to the Fire Department, the exact cause of the fire is not yet determined, but an investigation will continue and details will be released, once the investigation has been completed.
Twenty-five structures either burnt down completely or partially, affecting 74 individuals, which includes 31 children, representing 25 families. Sadly, one fatality, of an elderly gentleman, occurred during the fire and the Plettenberg SAPS has opened a docket of unnatural death. The name of the deceased will be released once the next of kin has been informed.
The Fire Department responded immediately to the call and due to the quick response, prevented more structures from burning down.
Bitou municipality, is coordinating the relief efforts through its disaster management official, the community liaison officer (CLO) and the community development worker (CDW). The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), along with Bitou Municipality has started to distribute blankets, mattresses and food parcels to the affected victims.
The ward councillor, assisted by the MayCo portfolio councillor has been on the ground at the community centre to assist with the coordination of the relief efforts. Bitou municipality acknowledges the donations that have been received from The Plett Lions Club, local chapter of the Red Cross and the Rotary Club of George.
Bitou has made an urgent application for disaster funding to the national department of Human Settlements and will duly inform the provincial department of Human Settlements of the application. The application for disaster funding is done in the context of a total of 72 informal dwellings that has burnt down between April to May 2018, in various settlements. Other areas includes Zawa-Zawa in Kurland Village: 39 structures; Kwanokuthula: 6 structures and 2 structures in Qolweni, two weeks prior to the 3rd June 2018 fire.
The housing section Bitou has indicated that the currently face an almost R600 thousand backlog in funding to assist affected fire victims with building materials. This backlog will hopefully be addressed if the disaster funding application is approved by the national department of Human Settlements.
Bitou municipality, along with ESCOM will determine the extent of the damage to electrical and other municipal infrastructure and will as funding becomes available, replaced the damaged infrastructure.
The Executive Mayor, Councillor Msimboti Lobese, has offered his condolences to the family and friends of the deceased and has committed to facilitate with the Department of Home Affairs, to assist the victims to obtain identity documents and birth certificates on an expedited basis and the Mayor also will drive a campaign to assist the learners to obtain school uniforms.