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After a fire destroyed more than 500 homes in Alexandra, one of South Africa’s poorest townships, residents and the public have joined together to rebuild.

The fire tore through the informal settlement on Thursday, after a fight had reportedly led to the fire breaking out, according to a report by eNCA.

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The Joburg Public Safety Office tweeted that the fire is a suspected case of arson.

“We also suspect that the illegal connection also contributed to the extent in which the fire caused damage,” it tweeted.

The city of Joburg tweeted and said it had relocated over 100 displaced persons to alternative accommodation on Friday, a day after the tragic event.

“Food parcels are also provided at the temporary accommodation. This intervention will continue until all able to rebuild,” the city said.

Alexandra, or "Alex" as it is commonly called, was the first place Nelson Mandela settled in when he first came to Gauteng in 1941, according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

“It is densely packed with shacks and dwellings of all kinds, but as it undergoes the Alexandra Renewal Project, shanties are being replaced with houses; streets, lighting, and other infrastructure is improving; extensive greening and clean-up projects are under way,” according to website, Gauteng.net.

And since the fire, organisations and members of the public have been uniting to support those whose lives have been affected.

Brand South Africa, Gift of the Givers, Gautrain, the Joburg Emergency Medical Services, and Uber South Africa were some of the organisations that have been supporting the effort.

“Brand South Africa calls on all to unite, play their part, and assist with providing humanitarian support in the form of food, water, [and] shelter which can be delivered to Alex and the Sandton fire station,” said Brand South Africa in a statement. “It is imperative now more than ever to be reminded that ‘a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.’”

Brand South Africa said it applauds Gift of the Givers, which has been working to help the community.

“They moved a mother who gave birth yesterday [on Friday] and another with four children who lost everything in the fire, to their Logistics Centre in Bramley,” Brand South Africa said.

In a statement, Gift of the Givers said its teams had registered the rest of the victims and transported them to a nearby hall where they were provided with food, bottled water, blankets, and mattresses.

“During the course of today, further appropriate interventions will be affected,” it said.

Uber South Africa said in a statement that it is the duty of local South Africans to come together to assist — because in community, there is hope.

And, to perform its own duty too, Uber “has created a temporary vehicle view called UberCommunity” — the aim of the initiative is to give Johannesburg users the opportunity to request a car that would collect donations for the people of Alex, who are currently working to rebuild their lives.

South African radio and TV personality Anele Mdoda challenged South Africans, including businesses, on social media to donate clothes, food, and other necessities.

Companies like KFC responded to the challenge and promised to help feed displaced families for the next three months.

“We are deeply saddened by last night's #AlexFires. #AddHope has pledged to feed 300 displaced families over the next 3 months with food parcels everyday and we are also providing food to the Uber drivers helping out on the ground. Together we can make a difference,” the company tweeted.

Meanwhile, grocery store Spar has also pledged R50,000 in supplies.


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A Huge Fire in Alexandra Has Sparked Outpourings of Support From South Africans

By Thato Mahlangu