For security guard, Aram Morapa, living in a shack when the cold arrives is cause for plenty of concern. Little did he realise that the cold weather on the morning of Wednesday 2nd October 2019 would play a role in the loss of all his possessions, and the tragic loss of his elderly neighbour.
Aram lived in a warehouse in Marlboro that housed approximately 102 people in an estimated 45 shacks.
At approximately 7.45pm Aram and his wife heard his neighbour’s cries of “fire, fire”. He exited his shack and saw his neighbour’s shack engulfed in flames. The residents tried throwing buckets of water to douse the fire, but it was too late. The fire had spread fast to the shacks attached and engulfed them too.
Aram’s wife, Nomsa, managed to get out while Aram tried to salvage a blanket from the shack to cover her and offer some form of protection from the cold. He was too late, the fire had ravaged his shack and all he could do was head for the exit.
“The flames were coming too fast, I left the blankets and ran,” Aram says. “I found the exit was full of fire. I saw the steps going up and I saw my neighbour running, so I followed him. We found an exit upstairs and I was the last person out. Everybody made it except an old man in his seventies.”
Everything was gone except what he was wearing and his cell phone in his pocket. Through the kindness of friends, family and anonymous donors Aram and his wife have some essentials to help them on their road to recovery.
City of Johannesburg Disaster Management Logistics Response and Relief were quick to respond and sought the help of various aid organisations such as Marlboro Women’s Forum, Al-Imdaad and Gift of the Givers, to donate food, blankets and other health items. Ashraful Aid and Linbro Islamic Trust additionally offered hot meals to the victims in the evenings.
It is alleged that the fire was started by a candle that got knocked over and ignited a blanket, and an investigation is currently under way.
“Be very careful. We have been using paraffin for two weeks because we haven’t had electricity,” Aram advises. “If you are using candles, do what you need to do then extinguish it. Never leave a candle unattended as an animal or child can knock it down, we have to think for them. If you are drunk, don’t light anything.”