South Africa – The City of Cape Town has deployed additional firefighting resources in under-siege Knysna, where at least four people have lost their lives amid numerous wild fires still raging in the surrounding “war zone” in the area this morning.
The N2 was closed, with no access between Plettenberg Bay and Knysna, and Sedgefield and Knysna. There are only two routes into Knysna and the one between Knysna and George has been opened again.
There have been power outages in some areas and telephone lines are still down.
Eight additional Working on Fire (WOF) teams were to arrive in Knysna overnight and this morning.
Knysna mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies said on social media: “I am sitting here in the Municipal Finance office where our Joint Operations Centre is being managed. The picture shows our town burning! I have no words.
“For 45 years I have lived in this town and have NEVER witnessed such devastation.
“Tonight I ask each one of you to send positive thoughts and prayers to Greater Knysna residents. My heart is broken, more I can’t say.”
WOF general manager Shane Christian said: “We currently have 94 WOF firefighters on night shift, others at rest at a base camp in Knysna. By 10am tomorrow a new strategy will be developed taking into account the situation and possible aircraft to be deployed.”
Oaklands School and the provincial hospital sustained significant damage and thousands of people were heading to the lagoon to avoid fires. The Montessori school also sustained major fire damage.
The WCDMC said it is is busy co-ordinating relief efforts and humanitarian relief aid for all affected areas across the Western Cape following the storm, including and with a specific focus on Knysna. In addition, a drop-off point for the collection of food, water and other necessities will be established at the Eden fire station in George.
The Eden District Municipality said earlier: “The fire has jumped the N2 near the Buffelsbaai turn-off, leading to the closure of the N2 at this point as well. The section near Kruisfontein, outside Knysna, en route to Plett still remain close as well but in this section the fire has been brought under control.”
On Twitter and Facebook, there were many offers of temporary accommodation for Knysna residents and their pets fleeing the fire carnage. A Crowdfunding page has also been set up to assist embattled Knysna residents.
Resident Richard Wallis was reported as saying: Knysna is in perpetual darkness. Its a disaster here. Its crazy. Some people are fire-locked. They have water on the one side and the fire on the mountains on the other side. Its really bad.
Inhabitants of Buffalo Bay, about 20km from Knysna, also had to be evacuated.
Eastern Cape Premier Arthur Trollip said they were also tackling out-of-control fires due to gale-force winds in Nelson Mandela Bay, but once they have the manpower, they will be assisting Knysna.
Go George Buses have been called in to provide mass transport, says James-Brent Styan, spokesperson for Western Cape Local Government MEC Anton Bredell.
The elderly are being evacuated to an old-age home and other evacuated people to the Chris Hani Community Hall in Dam se Bos. Animals could also be seen fleeing the fires.
“The fire in a plantation is completely out of control and 13 houses at Springveld were evacuated. Knysna has requested assistance from all available resources at adjacent local authorities,” a statement said.
Fire services were battling blazes in Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay.
Three people have been confirmed dead in Rheenendal. A farmworker, his wife and son died in the fire.
The Southern Cape fire siege has led to evacuations, road closures and at least one home being gutted along the N2 in Touws River.
Thirty-two informal structures have lost roofs and a tree landed on two houses in New Dawn Park and one in Borcherds.
The fire brigade has cut down and removed 12 trees that landed in roads around George.
Power outages are reported in Thembalethu, Wilderness Heights, Industrial area and Parkdene due to either trees on lines or wind damage.
Power has been restored in Herolds Bay, Oubaai and Hansmoeskraal power restored.
The fire brigade is currently active at a veld fire in Hoekwil, Serpentine Heights, and another in the Touwsranten area.
A total of 26 fires have been dealt with by George fire brigade.
Fire brigade deployed at various fires, but no serious disruptions at this point in time;
It has been reported that it is burning in the valleys and teams cannot reach the fires.
Kruisrivier fire fire and rescue teams are on scene. The fire is under control.
Forty people have been evacuated in areas where dwellings lost their roofs due to the gale -orce winds;
The Ladismith Hospital reported that they were without water. Electricity disruptions have been reported, affecting mainly Ladismith.
A house along the N2 in Touws River was also gutted in a blaze.