On Friday, a fire engulfed Medellín’s Moravia neighborhood, burning more than 8000 square meters, affecting 466 families and 1,652 people, half of whom are children.
Moravia, one of Medellín’s most notorious districts, was originally the site of a trash dump. However in the early 1980’s, city residents began to build houses over the site. In 2006, then Medellín mayor Sergio Fajardo declared the neighborhood a public disaster, and residents living over the dump were relocated to other areas while the city cleaned up the site and planted gardens.
The fire started at 57th avenue and 89th Street. The flames reportedly spread quickly. It took firefighters three hours to extinguish the blaze. Of the 466 displaced families, those without homes are being sheltered in the city’s “El Bosque” Educational Institution.
During the fire, many residents were seen crying over the ashes that once were their homes, while others carried water in whatever container they could find to try to extinguish the fire. Some people were rushing to remove the gas cylinders outside their homes to avoid explosions, as well as their refrigerators.
Belly Juliet Velásquez, a resident of Moravia, told El Tiempo that she lost everything in the fire.
“This was my street. A balcony was over there and my kitchen and cupboard were here. This was mine, my plates, my spoons, the tuna I was going to eat. I had everything you could have in a home, everything”, she said sobbing.
Most homes in the neighborhood are constructed of wood and other flammable materials, as opposed to concrete and brick on most other sections of the city. This contributed to the fire’s spread.
The causes of the fire have not been determined. While it is investigated, the mayor of Medellín, Federico Gutiérrez, has forbidden residents from returning to their homes. The affected will remain in temporary shelters, paid for by the city.