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Franschhoek Pass still closed

2010-02-08 22:57

Franschhoek - The Franschhoek Pass remained closed until further notice because of the widespread fires in the area, said Michelle Kleinhans, national co-ordinator for Working on Fire on Monday night.

She confirmed that six WoF teams from the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal had been contacted and were en route to help contain the blaze. Each team comprises of 25 firefighters.

Kleinhans said the helicopters used on Monday to carry firefighters to several areas in the Western Cape had been ordered to land. The helicopters would assist at first light if weather and visibility permitted.

The helicopters could not be used for water-bombing on Monday because of poor visibility.

Firefighting teams from CapeNature and other authorities had also called in back-up to help contain a further six huge fires in the Knysna and Plettenberg Bay areas.

No relief in sight

The head of disaster management in the region, Gerhard Otto, said that the fires had become worse rather than better.

He said: "It’s hot, it’s dry, it’s windy and there is just no relief in sight."

The worst blaze was in Knysna where firefighters were working to save homes and businesses.

The fire was burning timber, fynbos and old grass.

In Plettenberg Bay, a similar fire was also threatening properties.

A disaster centre that could mobilise all emergency resources was opened in George on Monday morning.

The teams on the ground were made up of firefighters from the Eden district municipality, South African National Parks, CapeNature, the Working on Fire Programme and other organisations.

According to the fire chief for Eden, Annelize Lamprecht, there were also fires in the Haarlem area near George, in the Rheenendal area as well as two fires in Still Bay.

The Franschhoek blaze, reportedly started by workers using an open fire to cook food, had burned about 4 800 hectares of the Jonkershoek and Hottentots Holland nature reserves over the last four days.

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