Belgrade, 4 February 2009 – A fire that broke out on Wednesday morning destroyed completely 11 houses built of cardboard, old tires and wood in the Roma slum situated under the Gazella bridge in the centre of Serbia’s capital Belgrade.
The slum, estimated to house between 900 and 2,000 people, is slightly up from the riverbank of the Sava river, very near the city’s expensive hotel and business district. The single-storey dwellings can best be desrcibed as huts made of cardboard and aluminum sheeting, held down by tires, rocks and bits of plastic.
There is no plumbing and running water, and electricity comes from rigged up connections to nearby pylons. Most residents make a living by selling items they find in the city’s dumpsters, and few have basic reading and writing skills, as mutual mistrust and prejudice between Roma and Serbs makes schooling a difficult experience for most Roma kids.
Nobody was hurt, and 10 fire trucks arrived minutes after the fire broke out, Belgrade media reported. It is second time in a month that a fire destroyed houses in the slum, as four homes burnt on the night of Serbian Orthodox Christmas on Jan 7.