Series of evacuations as firefighters struggle to contain 26 Knysna fires

2017-06-07 19:28
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Cape Town – More areas in the Knysna region have been evacuated following a series of raging fires that have set the area ablaze on Wednesday.

Welbedacht, Nania, Eastford, Green Pastures, and Knysna Heights have also been confirmed by the Eden District Municipality to be undergoing evacuations due to the dangerous fires, with concerns being raised that the town - which boasts a population of 77 000 - may have to be evacuated. 

People are being moved on Go George buses - which are fully operational - to the Loerie Park area in town for safety reasons. Residents from the upmarket Pezula Golf Estate have also been told to evacuate their residences.

Earlier, Belvedere, Western Knysna head and Brenton-on-Sea were evacuated after strong winds fanned the flames of 26 fires around the Knysna area on Wednesday, Local Government

MEC Anton Bredell's spokesperson James-Brent Styan said. According to the Eden District Municipality, the fire has jumped the N2 near the Buffelsbaai turn-off, with roads around the area remaining closed. 

The fire is said by the municipality to have split between the CBD area, and Knsyna Heights. The CBD area is reported to be out of power. The other half of the fire is affecting the Belvedere and Brenton area. Officials cannot confirm, but it is believed that over 50 houses have been burnt thus far. Knysna High School, Oakhill school, Brenton Haven, as well as other buildings are reported to be on fire. An eyewitness said that the Knysna Provincial Hospital was also under threat of catching on fire.

Power outages 

Some areas are unable to communicate with neighbouring areas due to power outages, including the Knysna Municipality. Many have resorted to using social media to check on loved ones who live in affected areas as lines are down. In some parts, electricity is being left off until the wind has died down, with most areas having no access to power. 

The elderly in the Knysna area are also said to be evacuated to the Mont Old Age home and the Chris Hani community hall. At this stage, there is no confirmation of the number of houses lost due to fires, with many still being reported as being in danger by Eden officials.

Earlier, three people died as a result of the fires.

Eden district municipality spokesperson, Gerhard Otto, said a farm worker, his wife and son died in the fire near Rheenendal in Knysna. It was confirmed that another died as a result of a heart attack, supposedly bought on by the fire conditions in the area.

In Mossel Bay, 100 hectares have been burnt towards farms in the area.

Western Cape traffic head Kenny Africa said fire rescue services were struggling to contain the mountain fire that was being fuelled by the strong winds as a result of the monstrous storm gripping the province.

Africa said the N2 outside Knysna, Sedgefield, and Plettenberg Bay remained closed due to dense smoke and heat emanating from the fire, which impaired road visibility.

A total of 42 informal structures were damaged by the wind in George, but fires have been contained in the area, leading to the Airport Road being open.

He confirmed that the Huguenot tunnel also remained closed from Tuesday night for heavy vehicles and trucks due to power failures in Wellington and Worcester.

Motorists in smaller vehicles are being redirected to use Du Toits Kloof Pass on the N1 as an alternative.

Roads 

According to Africa, other areas affected by the raging storm include Beach Road and Helen Suzman Boulevard and Three Anchor Bay in Sea Point, which are closed due to high tide.

Motorists were asked to use Main Road, Green Point, High Level Road, Sea Point, Regent Road, and Sea Point as alternative routes.

Africa also confirmed that numerous trucks had been blown over by rough winds, including one outside Worcester, one in Piketberg, and two trucks on the N2 between Caledon and Bote River.

Baden Powell Drive had also been closed off with Strandfontein Road, 5th Avenue and Main Road, Grassy Park and Prince George Drive as alternatives.

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) in Knysna has also said in a statement that it has assisted those living along the coast, and the Knysna lagoon to evacuate their shoreline homes as the fire cut them off from safety.

The South African Weather Services has advised that the current weather conditions will persist until approximately 06:00 on Thursday. Showers were likely to subside thereafter.

News24 was unable to get in touch with the George Municipality for comment on the impact of the fires.

Emergency services are monitoring all fires, with South African National Defence Force (SANDF) reported to be on standby. 


Read more on:    cape town  |  knysna  |  weather  |  fires

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