Disabled man left with fire damages after load shedding

Abduraghman Salie, 62, and his family had a fire at their home after load shedding. Pictured with him is Sulyman Stellenboom, who said as Eskom is the cause of the load shedding, they need to take responsibility for this.

An Eastridge disabled pensioner and his family are left to pay for damages at their home after a fire break out during load shedding.

Abduraghman Salie, 62, one of the founder members of Mitchell’s Plain’s first sports club for the disabled, Greater Bulls Disabled Sports Club, said he and his 65-year-old wife and their 4-year-old grandson heard a loud bang on the day of the fire.

The fire started in the kitchen of their Cycad Street home at the electrical outlet around late April. Load shedding just ended and the lights went on at 8pm the wheelchair-bound Mr Salie told the Plainsman on Tuesday June 21.

The rooms are upstairs and the bathroom and kitchen are downstairs. When he goes upstairs he has to stay there, he said.

“Everyone was upstairs, we were at rest around 8pm. We smelled smoke and heard a bang. My wife called to me. We were in a panic. I crawled out of bed to see where my wife and grandson, 4, were.

“There were lots of smoke; when you close your eyes it’s the same darkness,” said Mr Salie.

They shouted for help to the neighbours outside and also to get some air. Their grandson was put through the window so that the neighbour could save him.

The neighbours banged on the door and then stomped the door open to help the family.

“I was more concerned about my wife and grandson during the fire outbreak. The neighbours came in and saved me and my family. The ceiling was burning, the microwave kettle, toasters and part of the kitchen burnt out,” Mr Salie said.

Community activist and co-ordinator for the Greater Bull Disabled Sports Club, Sulyman Stellenboom from Tafelsig, said Eskom is the cause of the load shedding, “they need to take responsibility for this and help people like Mr Salie and his family.”

“Thank God the fire was under control it could have been worse. The cause of the fire was load shedding. They lost a lot and they coughed up money to sort this out. This (the house) is not suitable for them in future,” said Mr Stellenboom.

The Salies said the City of Cape Town wanted them to pay for the damages and to pay for the repair cost. They sent them a quote from an insurance company. However, the family paid for the damages themselves but still have problems with some of the electrical items such as the stove.

Mr Salie said when they applied for a house, they received their current home in Eastridge near the Town Centre – in an area commonly known as “Smartie Town” – through the Cape Community Housing Companyand did not apply for another house again.

“I can’t explain the feeling. I’m disabled, it was a different feeling. I was very concerned for my family and made sure that they were seen to as soon as help came. I’ve lived here for over 20 years and applied for a house applicable to my needs, but it was not successful,” he said.

Neighbour Marwaan Isaacs, 54, said they kicked the door down to save the family. “My daughter smelled the smoke and we immediately went in. I knew we needed to jump in as soon as possible. I was worried about Mr Salie and shouted to him – they were okay in the end. We rushed to make sure they were fine. We went in with no protection and saved them,” said Mr Isaacs.

Beverley van Reenen, the mayoral committee member for energy, said residents are encouraged to reduce the risk and occurrence of nuisance tripping by switching off appliances prior to load shedding. Nuisance tripping might in some instances damage electrical equipment or cause a fire to start.

Power surges are oversupply of a voltage which generally last a fraction of a second and, if severe, will generally damage digital and computer equipment, which if severe could result in failure of electronic components, and in severe but very rare occasions, could ignite a fire.

If a customer suffers damages which they attribute to load shedding they may submit a claim to the City, which will be investigated.

Malusi Booi, mayoral committee member for human settlements, said applicants of the social housing institution, the Cape Town Community Housing Company, needed to qualify for a government housing subsidy.

Former or current property owners do not qualify for a Breaking New Ground (BNG) housing subsidy. The City requires more information from Mr Salie on this matter, he said.

“Beneficiaries of all City housing projects are allocated in accordance with our allocation policy and the date of registration on our Housing Needs Register. This is to ensure that housing opportunities are provided to qualifying applicants in a fair, transparent and equal manner, and to prevent queue jumping,” said Mr Booi.

Applicants, including people with permanent disabilities, are selected for housing opportunities based on the date that they registered on the City’s Housing Needs Register, he said.

As such, all state-subsidised housing projects include beneficiaries with special needs, such as people with a permanent disability and the elderly.

“It is important for all beneficiaries to keep their addresses and cellphone numbers up to date so that the City can contact them when it is their turn to be assisted,” he said.

To submit an insurance claim with the City, you have to download, print and complete the relevant form from the document downloads section at https://www.capetown.gov.za/City-Connect/Claim-or-dispute and click on “Complaints and claims against the City”. Alternatively, call the City’s customer call centre number on 0860 103 089.

To lodge complaints directly with Eskom, call their customer care number on 08600 37 566 or email customerservices@eskom.co.za To lodge complaints about crimes of Eskom’s infrastructure, call the Eskom toll-free crime line on crime line 0800 11 27 22