Rain in Cape Town helps firefighters

By Drum Digital
04 March 2015

The rain in Cape Town is helping firefighters battling the blaze in Muizenberg that broke out over the weekend, the city's disaster risk management centre said on Wednesday.

"The rain is good news for us because it helps," spokeswoman Charlotte Powell said.

"If it rains hard, it is a bonus for us, but the drizzle doesn't really do much. There is also very little wind in the area.

"When it rains, visibility is a problem for the helicopters so we will have to withdraw our aerial support. The choppers have been water-bombing certain areas."

She said the rain was falling especially in the Hout Bay area.

At 11.45am six helicopters were bombing hotspots.

"Since the fire started on March 1, we have evacuated 500 people."

The City of Cape Town said several agencies were fighting the fire in the South Peninsula. Efforts were focused on Lower Constantia Nek, upper Tokai, Clovelly, Fish Hoek, Kalk Bay, Hout Bay, and Noordhoek.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said in a statement that an additional 150 staff from Working on Fire had been deployed with other ground crews.

He said there had been conflicting reports about the number of properties damaged. The city's fire and rescue service would go to where damage was reported to clarify the numbers.

Boyes Drive, Chapman's Peak Drive, Clovelly Road, Price Road, Schoenstatt (Groot Constantia) and Ou Wingerd Road remain closed to traffic.

Smith thanked those who had been providing food and drink to firefighters.

"However, we have been overrun with donations and I would therefore kindly request that the public refrain from making further donations. We will communicate any further needs as they occur," he said.

He said motorists should remember that pulling over on highways to watch the fire was dangerous and illegal.

Those living in "low-lying areas" and are not affected by the approaching fires were asked to use water sparingly. This would allow the reservoirs serving the areas to maintain manageable operating levels to ensure an effective supply of water to emergency teams.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape community safety department said it evacuated staff and students at the Chrysalis Academy on Tuesday around 7pm as the fire spread towards Tokai.

"The academy is situated in Tokai Road, below the Elephant's Eye cave. Contrary to some incorrect media reports this morning, there is at this stage, no significant damage to the property," spokeswoman Deidré Foster said in a statement.

"The academy reports that the students are safe and are doing well."

The fire started on Sunday, but was contained and started again just after 2am on Monday in Muizenberg above Boyes Drive. It was fanned by strong winds.

It spread to Ou Kaapse Weg, Chapman's Peak, Hout Bay, and Tokai.

One city firefighter sustained burn wounds while 52 frail-care residents from the Noordhoek retirement village were treated for smoke inhalation.

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