Banks, big business give millions for Knysna fire victims

Cape Town - Two of South Africa's big four banks on Thursday contributed a total R20m towards relief efforts for victims of the devastating fires in the Southern Cape.

FNB and ABSA donated R10m each for disaster relief as raging fires in the Garden Route claimed five lives and gutted homes, businesses, a school and several cars since the fires broke out on Wednesday afternoon. This came as the biggest storm in 30 years to hit the Western Cape earlier on Wednesday also claimed five lives and displaced thousands of people.

The Western Cape Disaster Management Centre described the fires engulfing Knysna and surrounds as one of the most destructive blazes in recent memory. Up to 20 suburbs were hit and more than 10 000 people were evacuated by late Thursday.

ABSA also donated 5 600 tents usually used by cyclists during the Cape Epic mountain bike race, while FNB opened the doors of all of its branches and corporate buildings in the affected areas as drop-off points for public donations of relief supplies.

FNB Provincial Head Stephan Claassen said the bank would like to help in whichever way it can to support all affected communities. "If there is help there is hope," he said.

Claassen said FNB was inspired by people's willingness to help, and wanted to encourage other businesses and the public in general to assist.

Santam donates R1m

Short-term insurer Santam also donated R1m and dispatched additional field assessment resources to support its clients and business partners in the Garden Route and surrounding areas. It also appointed additional insurance assessors and dispatched additional catastrophe vehicles in both the Western- and Southern Cape areas, while setting up temporary offices in the area to coordinate its efforts.

"Our attention and focus is on ensuring the safety of people and communities in the affected areas.

"At this stage, we are not in a position to provide specific information about the nature and volume of the claims as we are working around the clock to help individuals and businesses who have suffered as a result of these events," Ebrahim Asmal, Santam’s executive head of claims and group sourcing told Fin24 in an emailed response to queries.

He reminded clients to use the Santam 24/7 claims and emergency helpline 0860 505 911 if they need help.

Retailers, including Shoprite and Makro, also answered the call for help, while logistics company DHL set up a local disaster response team.

Working with the City of Cape Town, DHL will be delivering essential supplies such as non-perishable food items, blankets, clothing and first-aid supplies to the region via road as well as air freight.

DHL also opened up their 39 locations across South Africa as additional drop-off points where people can donate non-perishable foods and other emergency supplies.

“We’ve been following the news of devastating fires closely over the past 24 hours and are very pleased to be able to help. Globally, we have DHL Disaster Response Teams that cover vulnerable regions worldwide to provide specialist logistics support and to facilitate the fast and efficient distribution of aid in disaster areas, therefore we’re well-equipped to support the Western Cape Government with their relief efforts," said Hennie Heymans, CEO of DHL Express Sub Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile disaster relief organisation Gift of the Givers sent a 32-ton truck carrying bottled water to Knysna. The truck was on standby to help drought relief efforts in Cape Town, and was later rerouted to Knysna, News24 reported.

The relief organisation also dispatched ten emergency services personnel and two ambulances. 

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