Flames engulf resort

Flames engulf resort

13 August 2008

published by www.news24.com

South Africa — “We couldn’t see or do anything because the flames were too hot and the smoke too thick,” says Edson Mashawa of the wind-fuelled fire which destroyed most of Zuurberg Mountain Village.

The rondavels at the luxury resort overlooking the Addo Elephant National Park burnt to the ground within 15 minutes, Mashawa said.

A veld fire that started on Sunday but was thought to have been under control, flared up again at about 20:45 on Tuesday night.

A group of 36 tourists from Europe and the US were brought to safety, but their possessions were destroyed in the fire. No one was injured.

The owner, Henri Alant, was trapped by the flames about eight kilometres from the hotel as Mashawa and other staff members were doing their utmost to save what they could.

Alant said he had left to go to Port Elizabeth shortly after 20:00 on Tuesday, but was phoned half an hour later and told to return because the veld fire was approaching rapidly.

R10m damage

He turned back immediately, but his way was blocked by the flames.

“I phoned Clinton Wild, the manager at the resort, and told him to get the tourists out of the rondavels as quickly as possible.”

He called Addo and Motherwell police stations for help.

“I was only able to reach my hotel at 04:00 on Wednesday morning.”

He could not believe the destruction.

The rondavels, a conference centre, Alant’s house, a church that had been built for the community and the contents of the buildings were destroyed.

“The tourists were taken to Addo, Port Elizabeth and other surrounding areas.”

The fire spread rapidly because of strong winds that came up late in the afternoon.

Fire engines from Kirkwood and Paterson and a team of 40 firefighters, led by conservationist John Adendorf, soon came to help.

Alant’s 50-strong staff also helped and together they managed to keep the fire from the hotel.

The staff accommodation was not damaged, Alant said, but the other damage would cost more than R10m to repair.

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