Residents of Phalaborwa in Limpopo, benefactors and other organizations reached out on Sunday and provided help to people who lost almost everything in a devastating fire last weekend.
“It was a terribly traumatic experience. I have experienced adults and children running from a burning house with only the clothes on their bodies. There are people who have nothing left. But what was truly incredible to experience is how the community came together in the midst of such disaster,” Anton Kellerman, chairman of the local community policing forum (GPF), told RNews on Monday.
He referred to residents who, in the midst of the heat, fierce flames and a water crisis, devised plans to try to save houses, trees, thatched roofs and everything else from the fire.
RNews reported earlier that Phalaborwa was declared a disaster area on Sunday after a wildfire spread on Saturday and burned at least 12 houses, including a guest house, to the ground. More than 30 other houses were also damaged in the devastating fire.
The popular guest house Elegance Guest House and ten hectares of land in the northern part of Phalaborwa also remained in the fray.
Kellerman says that not only is help and support received from the local community, but also contributions from the surrounding areas such as Tzaneen, Hoedspruit and Nelspruit.
“We receive loads of donations. These are things like food parcels, bottled water, clothes, linen, furniture and other necessities as well as monetary contributions and a place to sleep. Several residents opened their homes to families whose houses burned down, and a few guest houses in the town also offered temporary help.”
According to Kellerman, donations help alleviate the immediate need, but long-term help is also needed to help people rebuild their homes. “With the donations we receive, things like building materials can be purchased.”
Nicolise Schambriel, chairman of Helpende Hand’s Phalaborwa branch, says she asked for help on Helpende Hand’s national Whatsapp group on Sunday morning and in the blink of an eye Round Table from Tzaneen let them know they were collecting donations.
“They arrived in town just after 14:00 with two vans and two trailers full of vegetables, bottled water, groceries, bedding and a lot of other necessities.
“This community just showed again how powerful it is when people stand together. Who and what you are didn’t matter. Everyone stepped in to help.”
Schambriel says she hopes the community can now also come together to sort out the ongoing water crisis in which the town has been immersed for some time.
“There were some residents who had to stand and watch the fire get closer, knowing that their taps were dry. Some parts of the town have been without a drop of water since last Wednesday. This is due to the municipality’s mismanagement and we cannot allow this to continue.”
Members of the public who wish to support the Phalaborwa community can call Anton Kellerman on 084 226 6000 or Tania Goss on 072 469 2881. Or email [email protected].