South Africa — Firefighters yesterday battled to control huge flames raging in Port Elizabeth and the Southern Cape mountains, threatening homes and farms.
However, an early evening thunderstorm brought relief in Port Elizabeth to residents and firefighters who had worked tirelessly throughout the day to contain the fires.
At about 4.40pm yesterday, a massive thunderstorm erupted in Port Elizabeth, with hailstones the size of marbles falling in some suburbs, including Kabega Park, Sunridge Park and Lorraine. Municipal spokesman Luncedo Njezula said the firefighters finally managed to put out the fires just after 6pm, with rain providing a helping hand. Earlier yesterday, smoke clouds hung over Colleen Glen and surrounding areas, including Greenbushes, restricting visibility.
Fires fanned by strong winds were also reported in Cleary Park, Arcadia, under the Stanford Road bridge, St Albans and at the N2 Seaview turn-off.
Colleen Glen Primary School children were sent home early yesterday as teachers were concerned about the amount of smoke covering the area.
School principal Nompiliso Makunga said she was on her way home on Wednesday when one of the schools governing body members informed her of the fire.
He said I should come back, because fire from the nearby bushes was spreading towards the school.
When I got back, community members and firefighters were at the scene, extinguishing flames surrounding the yard.
When she had left that afternoon, the area was covered with dark smoke, but the fire had been brought under control.
Makunga said that when she arrived at her school yesterday, smoke was still in the air and the children were sent home for the safety of their health.
Njezula said eight veld fires were reported in Port Elizabeth areas yesterday. The Colleen Glen fire was attended to by four fire engines, a water tank and 12 crew members from Miramar, Greenbushes and Govan Mbeki fire stations. The fire occurred close to the school and it was still burning yesterday afternoon.
Willie Bosch, of Farm Communications, said the fire was earlier yesterday spreading from Colleen Glen towards Greenbushes and St Albans. He said residents doused their lawns with water and kept watch yesterday afternoon as a veld fire spread rapidly through nearby dry vegetation.
One Colleen Glen resident, Nico Nel, said he had hooked up hose pipes to his borehole water in case the situation worsened.
We are grateful to Farm Comm for notifying us of the danger and using their vans to truck water in and assisting the fire fighters, said Nel.
By late yesterday, firefighters were still battling a massive veld fire that raged over 25km on the slopes of the Swartberg mountains between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp.
The fire stretched from the area around the Swartberg Private Wildlife Estates to the other side of Groenfontein near Calitzdorp.
The fire, which started two weeks ago in the Groenfontein area of the Swartberg Nature Reserve, was doused by rains on Sunday but flared up again on Wednesday when a berg wind ignited coals smouldering in deep ravines.