Long wait for help after fire

Fire victims Petronella Jacobs and Laetitia Roberts with community leader Herman Bartie.

Two Freedom Park families are still living in dire conditions – one without water, sanitation or electricity – more than a year after their council houses caught fire.

Elrico Links, 33, lives with his girlfriend, Laetitia Roberts, 36, and the two sons, aged 5 and 8, in a shack on the spot where their semi-detached house had once stood.

The family built the shack from a starter building kit the City provided after the fire.

All that remains of the house now are its foundations: it was razed to the ground in the fire on Sunday February 18 last year.

The blaze spread to the semi-detached next door, gutting that house and putting a hole in the roof.

The tenant in that house, Petronella Jacobs, 56, said the fire had damaged the rafters and the ceiling. She is one of five people staying in the house.

Mr Links and Ms Roberts have no access to running water, and they said a social worker wanted to take their two boys away because of that.

Freedom Park community leader Herman Bartie has been trying to help the families.

“It has been a year and three months, and the residents affected by the fire are still waiting for water and electricity,” he said.

Ward councillor Washiela Harris had visited the site last, but the City had not sent a contractor to repair the one house and rebuild the other, he said.

Mr Bartie claimed a City inspector had visited Ms Jacobs’s house and told her the family shouldn’t be staying there as the roof could collapse at any moment.

Ms Harris did not immediately respond to questions, but Sub-council 12 chairman Sheval Arendse said the City was processing an application for aid – as an emergency housing submission – through its informal housing urban settlement development grant office.

“We await the outcome, and would attend to it once finalised,” he said.