Year after year, fires ravage informal settlements in various parts of the country. Most recently, a fire broke out among shacks in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. One person died in the October blaze, while 4,000 were left homeless. It was not the first time this year that tragedy struck the township, home to 400,000 people according to the most recent estimate. In May the human cost was higher: eight people — five of them said to be children — died in a fire. In September, four children died in two separate shack fires in the space of 24 hours in Alexandra and Kagiso, Gauteng. The tragedies come back in loops. Disaster comes not only in the form of flames, but also droughts and flash floods. And insufficient underlying infrastructure compounds the problems for disaster management efforts. This raises the question of SA’s disaster management capacity, and what challenges face those tasked with mitigating the fallout. Ekurhuleni’s disaster & emergency management service says the people who ...

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