Several families sharing a yard in Alex are living in fear from three large gum trees they worry will fall and destroy their houses.
The plight of residents on 5th Avenue has been known by authorities for over five years and they appeal for help before the homes are damaged by the roots and falling branches from the trees. Their worry is linked to the death of a child sometime back at a school on 4th Avenue when a similar tree fell on him.
The roots of one of the trees with its trunk centimetres from the main house have cracked the walls and floors of the main house. Resident Nomfundo Khumalo said the trunk blocks entry to one room which has been sealed off.
“We have removed paving bricks which have been dislodged by the roots which have also destroyed toilets. This forces us to beg for toilets from neighbours or use the public one, risking our lives, particularly at night,” Khumalo said.
The residents are also fearful of the trees’ branches falling on the roofs when it’s windy or raining.
“Their leaves pile up on roofs blocking water and causing it to leak through and damage the ceiling and floors of the property. The leaves decay the walls and make the rooms cold causing us chest pains,” Khumalo’s husband, Vusi added.
He said they discourage children from playing in the yard to avoid the potential danger from the trees toppling. Neighbour, Zandile Lillian said councillor Deborah Francisco and city council officials have known about the problem since 2016 through numerous written and verbal contacts but to no avail.
Lilian said they also fear a breakout of a health hazard from sewage spilling from the destroyed toilets. She said those tasked with maintenance work couldn’t stand their own children experiencing similar danger and health risks. She added that City Parks promised in a written response dated 12 December to send an arboriculturist who hasn’t arrived.
Councillor Francisco confirmed the problem, saying it was now beyond her. “I have taken delegations to the place who said anything within the yards isn’t their responsibility,” Francisco said advising the residents to forward a petition to her for submission to council. She urged them to also attend community meetings where officials are invited to give advice on their problems.
Council’s Region E spokesperson, Ephraim Pooe said the complainants and the councillor were advised to ask the owner of the place to lodge a formal request for the trees to be removed.
“We can’t work in people’s yards for legal reasons, including relocating those who would have been affected. “In this instance, the landlord will also have to demolish shacks which impede access to the trees.”