SOUTH AFRICA – Cape Town – Nine people died and more than 1500 were displaced as wildfires engulfed vast areas of the Garden Route over the past week.
Although most of the fires were contained by Tuesday, firefighters were still battling blazes in Karatara and Rheenendal – where eight people died – by Tuesday afternoon.
Knysna mayor Mark Willemse said on Tuesday: “A mere 16 months ago we were rocked by the horrific 7 June fires and we all hoped and prayed we would never again have to witness such devastation and tragedy. Today we are once again forced to face more tragic deaths caused by the scourge of veld fires.”
Willemse referred to last year’s fires which ravaged the region, consumed more than a thousand homes and about 200 businesses and claimed the lives of seven. Thousands more were forced to evacuate their homes and close to 2000 people were directly affected through major losses.
The fires started on October 20 in what is known as the Vermaaklikheid area, about 40km from Riversdal in the Southern Cape. It was finally contained last Wednesday, but not before 5 000ha of land and nine properties had been destroyed. Knysna firefighting pilot Nico Heyns, 65, also died after his Working on Fire (WoF) Huey chopper crashed during firefighting efforts in the area.