The house at the Westfort informal settlement burned down on Tuesday. Photo: Kayla van Petegem
A family from the west of Pretoria could only watch helplessly as their home went up in flames this week.
The family of three was fortunately not at home when the fire broke out at their house at the Westfort informal settlement in Elandspoort at around 14:00 on Tuesday.
Four of their pets were, however, not as lucky.
“Our one cat and mother dog with her two puppies died,” said Gerhard van der Walt.
Van der Walt said the rest of the family’s pets – two cats and two dogs – escaped, but fled into the surrounding veld not to be seen again.
The day started as any other for the family, according to his life partner Christine du Plessis.
“We left the house at around 07:00 to visit family,” she said.
At around 14:00, they got a call from another resident of the informal settlement that their house was burning.
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“We initially thought it was a joke, but when we looked in the direction of our home, we just saw flames and smoke,” Du Plessis said.
“After the call, we struggled to get back home because we did not have any transport – I only get my pension and Gerhard does carpentry for an extra income.”
She said fortunately, they managed to find a taxi to take them home.
“The fire department was already on the scene while plumes of smoke came from our once-safe haven.”
Van der Walt said he was not exactly sure what caused the fire.
He said they had to watch as their house – and all their belongings – went up in smoke.
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“We have nothing left – all our belongings and memories are gone,” he said.
“Al that we have left are the clothes on our backs.”
He said they were staying with family after the fire.
Du Plessis said she has been living in the house, which was built in 1948, for about 20 years and Gerhard has been living there for the past 14 years.
“I used to work at Westfort hospital before it closed down,” she said.
Westfort was a historic site which housed a hospital for lepers. It had since been converted into an informal settlement by locals, despite there is neither electricity nor running water.
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