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  • It started with a cooking accident. It was never clear from the stories just what happened. Walking through the undamaged areas to reach the site where last night’s fire had wiped out the contents of a few dozen “unsanctioned” dwellings in this sprawling maze of mud block and corrugated steel domiciles, one could see a hundred opportunities for such a conflagration to break out. Only the presence of a thousand vigilant eyes and ears within hailing distance of any single place where it might start could be responsible for there being comparatively few outbreaks of this kind.

    The people who lived in these ash-filled spaces before the fire will stay in them tonight, amidst the dust and carbonized remnants of what had been their worldly possession. To do otherwise would risk losing their place to others more willing. Squatters’ rules prevail here, and for another poor family, any opportunity to get under a roof, even an unauthorized one, is worth risking the strife that will inevitably come from seizing the floor space of others when they have no more title to it than a history of occupation. By this time tomorrow, new structures incorporating whatever damaged metal sheets and other salvaged materials will be near completion. The task of cleaning up was gotten underway by a hundred hands as soon as the rubble was cool enough to handle with ungloved hands, some of it still smoking.
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