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.


Celina said...

Dear Mr. Neuwirth,

I am enjoying reading your blog. I am a student at CUNY's School of Journalism, and am working on a project on squatters in NYC, but am interested in the larger global squatter community. I am wondering if you would be willing to be interviewed? My group is putting together a podcast on alternative living situations, and would greatly appreciate your perspective on squatter communities. If a phone interview would be most convenient, we could arrange that as well. I can be reached at Thank you very much for your consideration!

Celina Fang

Acumensch said...

If the electrical service was legal, that would mean they would have to pay for the services. Do the benefits of not paying for electricity outweigh the fire hazards and other risks involved with informal energy supplies?

rn said...

Here's my experience: squatters in the communities where I lived were willing to pay for legal hookups. This has certainly proven to be the case in Rocinha, in Rio de Janeiro, where the vast majority of squatters have agreed to take meters and pay full monthly electrical bills in return for the favela being wired.

Indeed, even when it's available informally, squatters still pay. I knew people in Kenya who were paying through the nose to run a cable from a neighbors pirated service so they could power a dim light bulk and a radio.

Anonymous said...

Very very tragic.