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JOHANNESBURG — Strong winds in the Southern Cape have contributed to sparking off massive fires in the town of Knysna. Reports on social media last night indicated that many residents were forced to flee their homes as over 25 fires raged around the area. This morning, reports indicate that the situation is still not under control. Meanwhile, at least four people are reported dead in its wake. If you are in Knysna and experiencing the fires, feel free to contact us to tell us your story by emailing us. The Hartland Media Group also supplied us with some video footage of the Fire’s destructive path. At the end of the article there are also details for anyone who’d like to make a donation. – Gareth van Zyl
By Nation Nyoka, News24
Cape Town – The smoke-engulfed town is a scene of orange and black. There is fire all around, and as the wind picks up, more flames are fanned.
This is the Armageddon-like scene described by a Knysna residents as several fires rage through the town.
“We are on Thesen Island. The whole town is in darkness except for the glow of the ring of fires around the town. The wind is very strong, perhaps at 40 or 50km/h, fires just keep starting up in new places,” said a despondent Diana Pieters.
— Jane Linley-Thomas (@JaneLinleyT) June 8, 2017
Pieters said she has been living in the town for 24 years, and on Thesan Island for 12 years. She lives with her husband.
She says she has limited water due to the water restrictions put in place in the province as a result of the drought. Despite this, she tells News24 that she is attempting to get as much of the wooden sections of the house as possible as wet as possible.
“This is an unreal situation. It is chaotic for people trying to drive out of town. Telephone lines and cellphone towers have been burnt down, and it is difficult to get proper information as we cannot get hold of anyone,” she said.
The town is said to be enveloped in complete darkness due to power outages. Pieters said that the safest places to be are Thesen Island, Leisure Isle, and Loerie Park in town.
Another resident, Vivienne Pawson, says she first heard that both entrances into Knysna were closed off on the N2 due to smoke, which impaired vision.
By the time she was heading home mid-afternoon, shops had been closed, and the strong winds had already picked up, blowing her chimney off and resulting in erratic power outages.
— Alfred Thorpe (@vuurtoring) June 8, 2017
“Two of my friends have been evacuated from Belvedere and Knysna Heights respectively and are staying with friends on this side. I fear one may have lost her home. Right now from my veranda (looking north-west) it looks like the fire has mostly burnt out in Belvedere and the worst of the blaze is now above town and Upper Old Place and moving towards Noetzie,” she said.
Roads are still closed between Plettenberg Bay and Knysna and Sedgefield and Knysna, Disaster Management and Social Service’s Fran Kirsten confirmed.
The number of those reported dead still remains at four, with officials monitoring the situation.
Spokesperson for MEC Anton Bredell, James-Brent Styan confirmed in a statement that reinforcements would be deployed to the area to assist those on the ground, including eight fire trucks from the City of Cape Town, two from the Overberg district and twelve others.
“Conditions include strong wind and lots of smoke which makes helicopter use not possible at present,” said Styan in a statement. – News24
Comments taken from the Alec Hogg Facebook page
Series of evacuations as firefighters struggle to contain 26 Knysna fires
By Nation Nyoka, News24
Cape Town – Three areas along the Garden Route have been evacuated following a series of raging fires that have set the area ablaze.
Belvedere, Western Knysna head and Brenton-on-Sea have all been evacuated after strong winds fanned the flames of 26 fires around the Knysna area on Wednesday, Local Government MEC Anton Bredell’s spokesperson James-Brent Styan said.
Earlier, three people died as a result of the fires.
Eden district municipality disaster management community services manager and spokesperson, Gerhard Otto, said a farm worker, his wife and son died in the fire near Rheenendal in Knysna.
Western Cape traffic head Kenny Africa said fire rescue services were struggling to contain the mountain fire that was being fuelled by the strong winds as a result of the monstrous storm gripping the province.
Africa said the N2 outside Knysna, Sedgefield, and Plettenberg Bay remained closed due to dense smoke and heat emanating from the fire, which impaired road visibility.
He confirmed that the Huguenot tunnel also remained closed from Tuesday night for heavy vehicles and trucks due to power failures in Wellington and Worcester.
Motorists in smaller vehicles are being redirected to use Du Toits Kloof Pass on the N1 as an alternative.
According to Africa, other areas affected by the raging storm include Beach Road and Helen Suzman Boulevard and Three Anchor Bay in Sea Point, which are closed due to high tide. Motorists were asked to use Main Road, Green Point, High Level Road, Sea Point, Regent Road, and Sea Point as alternative routes.
Africa also confirmed that numerous trucks had been blown over by rough winds, including one outside Worcester, one in Piketberg, and two trucks on the N2 between Caledon and Bote River. Baden Powell Drive had also been closed off with Strandfontein Road, 5th Avenue and Main Road, Grassy Park and Prince George Drive as alternatives.
— Working on Fire (@wo_fire) June 8, 2017
The South African Weather Services has advised that the current weather conditions will persist until approximately 06:00 on Thursday. Showers were likely to subside thereafter.
News24 was unable to get in touch with the George Municipality for comment on the impact of the fires. – News24
Plea for donations
Devastating wild fires have ravaged Knysna, and several other regions of the Western and Eastern Cape and residents need your help. Thousands of people have been displaced and property destroyed. Food, warm clothes, blankets, water and nappies are some of their urgent needs. Cash donations of any amount can also be made to help affected victims. Should you wish to make a cash donation, it can be paid into the Algoa Cares Charity account. These funds will be made available to the Eden Lions and the POPS Foundation, to support the victims of the fires.
Bank Account: ABSA Bank
Account Number: 406 199 3224
Branch Code: 632005
Reference: Algoa Cares Rescue
Other donations can be dropped off at Central Media Park at 7 Christo Groenewald Street, Bloemfontein.
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