'We got to buck up and carry on' - Knysna resident

2017-06-11 18:44
Rob Joubert who lost half of his home in the Knysna blaze (James de Villiers, News24)

Rob Joubert who lost half of his home in the Knysna blaze (James de Villiers, News24)

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Knysna – Losing your home in the Knysna fire is not a reason to grow negative, local resident Rob Joubert, who lost half of his property in the ongoing blaze, believes.

“You're sad, you are very sad, because it is something you’ve built up and you hope to live there for the rest of your life… but we got to buck up and carry on,” Joubert said.

“You can’t do anything about it now, it doesn’t help anything if you are negative in this situation.”

When News24 visited his home in Heuwel Heights on Friday afternoon, Joubert, a builder, was seen investigating the extent of damage to the double storey building. 

“All our possessions, our clothing, everything is gone, so basically I have the clothes I’m standing in,” he said. 

Joubert, who stays with his wife, sister-in-law and step-son in the home, said moving out of Knysna is not an option. 

“I’ve heard about people wanting to move away, but why? It could happen again; it could happen if I move to another place. So, there’s no point," Joubert said.

“We love it down here in Knysna [and] we will rebuild.”

On Saturday morning, the Western Cape government estimated that 408 formal buildings and over 200 informal structures have been destroyed by the blaze. 

Jerry Duna and Wendy Booysen, who stay together in the White Location informal settlement, said they arrived in the settlement on Wednesday afternoon to find people evacuating.  


Damage to Joubert's home in Heuwel Heights, Knysna. (James de Villiers, News24)

“First thing, we decided we must take the children first, our cousins and our brother-in-law, we just ask him to take the children and take to another location,” Duna said on Friday afternoon. 

“The first things we grabbed was our clothes, we left the food, only clothes because the fires came too fast.”

The fires stopped within metres from their home before the flames were extinguished. 

Booysen, a shop assistant in the Knysna CBD, said she was afraid to return to her property. 

“We don’t even have electricity now, since Wednesday we didn’t have electricity so we have to make fire outside and cook,” she said. 

“We don’t feel safe because now we have to make fire to cook, the wind is not exactly out of the way, it can any time do anything.”

Owen Lottering, who stays on Thesen Island, on Friday said all that he can do is help community members in need. 

“It was a horrible time to see the whole town burning … it was shocking, it shocks you emotionally,” he said.  

Lottering housed roughly 10 people in his home on Thesen Island on Wednesday evening, when up to 22 suburbs in Knysna were evacuated. 

“We didn’t sleep a lot as we kept trying to see where the flames were heading towards.”

On Friday afternoon, Lottering, a Jehova's witness, was helping friends evacuate possessions from their properties. 

Looters arrested

“Unfortunately there has been looting and there has been those kind of things so we are just helping them to all to try and get their possessions out and take that to storage so they don’t have to worry about that,” he said.

Lottering said roughly 150 Jehova's witnesses arrived in Knysna to help congregation members evacuate. 

Southern Cape police confirmed that seven people have been arrested for looting. They are expected to appear in the Knysna Magistrate’s court on Monday.

On Saturday afternoon, roughly 800 firefighters were battling flare-ups near Sedgefield, Buffalo Bay and Plettenberg Bay. 

Municipal spokesperson Fran Kristen said she was unaware of any further property damaged by fires on Saturday. 

Local historian Phillip Caveney said the last time a fire of this magnitude hit the district was in 1869.

This type of blaze occurs in 150 year cycles, he said.

WATCH: 'We have to get back up and carry on' - Knysna resident who lost his home

Read more on:    cape town  |  knysna  |  fires

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