Elias Xalipi might have lost everything in the fire that swept through Knysna but he hopes the rebuilding effort might create new opportunities for him.

Like thousands of others‚ Xalipi loaded his family into his car and left his home‚ forfeiting all his belongings to the flames.

This video illustrates the true extent of the damage inflicted on houses by the fire:

But as the smoke clears and insurance loss adjusters arrive‚ he hopes unemployed builders like him will benefit. “We are going to build all of these houses again‚ I am a builder‚” said Xalipi‚ standing in the ruins of what was once his living room.

His house was in White Location‚ an informal settlement where 200 families lost their homes.

The neighbourhood has seen four ministers of the presidency‚ one deputy minister‚ the premier of the Western Cape‚ and many local and provincial government officials‚ and on Thursday President Jacob Zuma is expected to visit.

Meeting in the Knysna mayor’s office on Wednesday‚ the Western Cape provincial cabinet agreed on an emergency injection of R75-million to help Knysna cope with the aftermath of last week’s fires.

Xalipi’s problems existed before the fire. Without a job‚ and now without a house‚ he needs to care for his severely handicapped son‚ Zuko‚ who sits strapped into a baby chair in his neighbour's doorway‚ and his 6-year-old daughter Faith.

“I took nothing‚ everything was in the house. I left everything. Everything. I just left with my car‚” said Xalipi. He does not have insurance.

A few metres away from where Xalipi's house once stood‚ human settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela assessed the area on Wednesday with municipal officials.

Standing amid the smouldering remains of houses‚ the provincial DA leader said the destruction presented an “opportunity to formalise” housing and provide services which most of the residents living in shacks did not have access to.

“Ideally we would love to formalise the area‚ put services in place before they come back‚” he said. “The meeting that we are going to have with them tomorrow must talk about that.

“We must be realistic‚ to put services in place doesn't take less than 12 months. We have to make sure that when we sell that idea‚ the people are accommodated under much better conditions than they were before. That idea is not going to fly if we are going to temporarily relocate them to a worse area than they were living in.”

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said the R 75-million was only “the first step”‚ adding: “We will continually reassess the needs and priorities going forward.”

Finance MEC Ivan Meyer said the four big banks had pledged funds for the rebuilding. “Our government is also grateful for the immense contribution from the private sector.”

- TimesLIVE

Here is earlier drone footage from the fire zone:

Please sign in or register to comment.