Saturday, September 20, 2008

the cliff dwellers quandary

The New York Times follows up on the cliff collapse in Manshayet Nasser, a sprawling Cairo neighborhood of more than one million residents:

The police have cordoned off the neighborhood; they don’t want any prying reporters, foreign observers or charity groups to get in. “It’s a crisis,” barked one state security agent, when asked why the area was sealed. A crisis for the government seems to be what he meant.

On Sept. 6 a huge piece of this cliff broke off and crushed the lives below, poor people living on the edge of the city. So far, 101 bodies have been recovered, but the true scope of what happened remains hidden beneath massive rocks that rest where they fell.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

2000 homeless after fire

A candle left unattended for a few moments sparked a fire that destroyed at least 600 homes and left 2,000 people homeless in the Foreman Road squatter neighborhood of Durban, South Africa. One man died in the fire and three other people are still missing.

Another tragedy due to the policy that prevents shack dwellers from having legal electrical service. What's more, though the municipality promised to install fire hydrants around the community four years ago, the work was never completed, and the neighborhood had just one communal water tap.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, South Africa's outspoken squatter movement, has scheduled a City Wide Shack Fire Summit at Foreman Road on Monday 22 September 2008. Now the meeting will take place in the ashes of Foreman Road.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

not acts of god

An astounding figure: on average, there are ten fires a day in squatter communities throughout South Africa. This fact comes from "Big Devil Politics," an important new report by Abahlali baseMjondolo, the squatter-run community organization that started in Durban. To understand these fires, Abahlali writes, you have to understand this: "Shack fires are not acts of God. They are the result of political choices." The report is necessary reading, written with contained fury. It is an indictment of the policies that have led to hundreds of deaths in South Africa's squatter communities every year.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Rock slide in Cairo shantytown kills 24 - Yahoo! News

An awful scenario: boulders the size of houses raining down on a shantytown in Cairo. AP has the details. But a significant news nugget is buried in the article:

1. "The reason the rocks keep falling is because there is no sewage system and their wastewater is eating away at the mountain," Hani Rifaat, a local journalist who has been following the issue, told AP from the site of the disaster.

2. Resident Mohammed Hussein said contractors have been working on shoring up the cliffs as they became increasingly unstable, but they could not complete their work until the government resettled the community below. "The contractor who is stabilizing the mountain asked the government to resettle everyone at least 32 miles from the mountain because he didn't want the rocks he was removing to fall on the people," Hussein told AP Television News. "The rocks are soaked with water and so are more brittle and prone to falling."

So, once again, squatters are victimized by lack of investment in infrastructure.