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A house cannot be eaten, says those who live in a neighborhood destroyed by fire

Residents of Povoado, a neighborhood where 500 families saw their houses destroyed a week ago, continue to sleep in the open, although authorities promise to relocate them soon, news that took them by surprise and displeased community representatives.

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The news about the relocation, a subdivision for self-construction 60 kilometers away, was, in fact, disclosed by journalists, causing revolt and discontent among the residents of the neighborhood, who promise not to budge and ask the President for help in finding a suitable solution.

In Povoado, a cluster of plate huts, wedged between Praia do Bispo and Morro da Samba, nothing has changed since, almost two years ago, these same residents spoke to journalists about the "Luanda Leaks" scandal, complaining of the bad conditions in which they live.

The misery remains, the lack of water, electricity and basic sanitation, the abundance of garbage and flies, the ditches with dirty water where the many children who try to distract themselves with improvised games play.

If something has changed, it's for the worse, as the amalgamation of twisted sheets that can be found there indicates, a tragic reminder of the fire last Wednesday that devastated the homes of hundreds of people.

Many lost what little they had in the grief of saving their families. "We heard the screams of 'fire, fire,' but we didn't really know where the fire was," says Pedro Alexandrino, 51 and a resident of the neighborhood for eight years.

As the fire spread, the main concern was to remove the gas cylinders and documents. Some were not in time and were left with nothing. "It was a wasted effort," he laments.

Not everyone saw their houses destroyed by fire, but many were uninhabitable as it was necessary to break down the metal walls, leaning against each other, to escape alive in the middle of the alleys. In total, 144 houses were burned and 510 families were left homeless.

"There is no longer any way to go back, we are there in the open air, both the affected and the unaffected. Angolans that we are, we live in these conditions in the middle of the city of Luanda", said the evictee.

The neighborhood has had media visibility, always for bad reasons. In 2013, the fishing community of Areia Branca was evicted, without prior notice, to build an urban project linked to a company owned by Isabel dos Santos, which in the end did not materialize.

After the Luanda Leaks scandal broke out at the end of 2019, the inhabitants of Povoado once again saw the attention of journalists fall on them. Last week's fire, which caused no casualties, was just another incident in a life marked by suffering.

The displaced have been out in the open since Wednesday, receiving some donations of clothing and food items, from the Luanda administrative commission and civil society organizations, insufficient for their needs, reports Talita Miguel, coordinator of the Povoado community.

Scattered on the floor, amidst the debris and dust, there are mattresses, tents, homemade stoves, the meager goods with which families try to continue their daily routines. With no work and no money, many try to earn a living with small businesses, fishing or doing odd jobs.

Adão Capanda is one of them. The 29-year-old, who lives off fishing, was not in Povoado last week. When he arrived, the shack where he lived with his wife, their five-month-old baby daughter, and two other nephews, was gone.

He has been relying on the help of colleagues and friends, as well as some donations, and is skeptical about the solution the authorities say they are preparing.

He learned from journalists that the proposal is to be moved to Icolo e Bengo, where they will be given land to build their own house. But he believes the difficulties will be even greater.

"Before we lived here, we lived in Areia Branca and most of the population depends on the sea, we don't see how to survive in Bengo. The country is going through a crisis and many have become unemployed. Most of the youth have the sea as their refuge. , how are we going to survive", he asks.

Adão Capanda says it will be very difficult: "How are we going to survive? A house is not a job, a house will not give us food."

Emanuela de Jesus Samuhongo escaped from the fire, but brought only her clothes on her back and is discouraged by the situation.
"I don't even have a sheet to cover me, there's nothing left in my house," said the mother of four, who hasn't even gone to work because she has nothing to wear.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with my life, we are waiting for what will happen", she despairs.

Some police officers, vigilant, try to guarantee safety conditions, accompanied by a civil protection element, while representatives of the residents' committees and the administration get together to distribute bags of clothes that they have just received.

It is when one of the neighbors hands him a newspaper that Talita Miguel's revolt sets off and spreads to the people.

The news, released on Tuesday by Lusa, said that the authorities were going to relocate the affected families in Kaxicane, in the municipality of Icolo e Bengo, some 60 kilometers from Luanda.

Surprised by the information, Talita Miguel guarantees: "We won't accept it".

And she continues, more and more exalted: "They are killing us, with the fiscal wear and the psychological wear, we are not in a position to receive subdivisions, we have many houses built that we do not even know who the real owners are. Where are they? human rights? We feel like refugees in our own country."

The Village coordinator says that many young people in the locality live off the sea, so taking them to Bengo also means taking their family's livelihood.

"If you are thinking of resettlement, discard that hypothesis, because we prefer to die and leave here in coffins to bury us, don't put us in Bengo", shouted Talita Miguel, calling on the President to use his skills to provide them with a dignified resettlement and "don't be fooled by the executive".

Around it, the popular accompanied the indignation and the wave of revolt grew. Without official explanations or warnings about the plans that others have adopted for their lives, they promise to fight and do not abdicate their rights.

"We are Angolan citizens, we need help. We are here near the Palace and we have not received a visit from any government, there was no visit to see how we are doing. Don't abandon us again", asked Rosalina.

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