Fires in NMB region under control 'for now', says municipality

2017-06-11 17:49
A helicopter flies with a water bucket to extinguish nearby fires in the coastal town of Knysna. (Halden Krog, AP)

A helicopter flies with a water bucket to extinguish nearby fires in the coastal town of Knysna. (Halden Krog, AP)

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Cape Town - Fires in and around Nelson Mandela Bay have been brought under control "for now", the municipality said on Sunday. 
 
But the municipality is now facing a water crisis, after its three water treatment plants went offline on Saturday. 
 
The fires near Port Elizabeth, which are separate from the fires still raging in the Eden District Municipality in the Southern Cape, have caused two deaths and destroyed a number of structures. 
 
Walter van der Riet, 73, and his wife Myrna van der Riet, 72, died of fire-related causes on Saturday. Police have opened an inquest docket to probe the two deaths.
 
The fires appear now to have been brought under control. 
 
"The calm weather has brought a huge relief to the firefighters on site. They are now able to access difficult areas to completely stop the fire," said municipality spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki in a statement. 
 
Mniki said that fires were being extinguished at Van Stadens Gorge and Rocklands, two areas heavily affected by the blazes. 
 
"Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality fire and emergency will remain at the Van Stadens Gorge and Rockland sites to make sure that the fire is over before they can leave," he said.

"Other areas that caught fire in the past three days are under close monitoring with the assistance of Metro Police who patrol around the areas that were affected." 

Meanwhile, Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip on Sunday warned residents to cut water use to an "absolute minimum" due to damage caused by the fires.

On Facebook, he linked to a post by the municipality’s infrastructure and engineering mayoral committee member Annette Lovemore.

Lovemore wrote that the "knock on effect of the fire" had severely affected the area’s water supply. 
 
The fires had caused electricity outages, which meant that on Saturday the municipality’s three water treatment plants went offline. Although two plants are back online, one will be out for a further 48 hours. 
 
"Not being able to treat water at the three plants yesterday [Saturday] has put the water supply in a critical state. All bulk supply reservoirs are low," she said.

"The water team is busy rerouting water to balance water to all areas."

Mniki, meanwhile, said a number of "important buildings" at the historic Woodridge College had been saved by firefighters. 
 
This contradicted some earlier media reports that all the school’s buildings were razed. 
 
The school earlier announced that all pupils had safely left its campus before the fire engulfed the school, and that non-local boarders were being hosted by local families.

Read more on:    port elizabeth  |  fires

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