DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti (Aug. 17, 2009) -- Zamzam Ahmed Dinbil was asleep in a second floor bedroom, her one-year-old daughter beside her, when the fire began that destroyed 21 homes and displaced 126 people in the Quarter 7 BIS neighborhood in the Boulaos commune of Djibouti on Aug. 10, 2009.

"My house was the first to catch fire," stated Dinbil as she stood in the charred shell of a building, she, her husband, Moustapha, and their two young children call home. When neighbors pounded on her door early Monday morning and called for her, the house was engulfed in flames.

Dinbil, forced to drop her infant toward the arms of her neighbors below, later jumped out the same second floor window to escape the flames. In just minutes her family's home and its contents perished in the quickly moving electrical fire that continued to rip through the commune claiming 20 more homes in its path.

Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa's D Company, 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, Team 4, learned of the fire on Tuesday during a tour of the commune with its president, Abouboker Moussa Areh. "We assessed the situation and looked to see how we could help," said Team 4 leader, U.S. Army Captain Rob Meehl. "With donations from the chapel, Joint Forces Five and the CAV (Community Action Volunteers), we were able to deliver clothing and personal hygiene items. And, we brought mattresses, as well as, wood and tin to help with the rebuilding of their homes."

Soldiers from the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion and sailors from Maritime Civil Affairs Team 104 spent most of Wednesday morning loading a trailer, a truck, and a flatbed at Camp Lemonier with the donated material. It only took minutes for the teams to unload the items once they arrived at the commune and were met by several hundred Djiboutian neighbors waiting to lend a hand.

The fire burned for an hour and Areh estimated it would take the neighborhood three days to rebuild its homes. "This is good for the people here. The neighborhood will be rebuilt with the materials delivered today," Areh said.

Pointing toward the flatbed where Djiboutians, civil affairs members, and volunteers worked side-by-side unloading wood, Dinbil said, "I am so happy to see them here today. My home was rented, so if it were not for these things, my family would have no home to live."

Nimo Adawe lives next door to Dinbil. She sat on a piece of cardboard on the dirt, her home just a pile of ashes and rubble behind her. Adawe watched Meehl's team unload metal sheets, wood, clothing, and supplies to help rebuild the 21 homes lost in the fire. Clasping her hands together she said, "I lost everything important to me. All my goods, all I cooked with and owned." The mother of three is happy her children are safe, but said she is also feeling dejected with only the clothes on their backs and no roof over their heads. "But, now, I'll have a home again," she said through a smile.

Page last updated Mon August 17th, 2009 at 18:17