Knysna fires: 'There was no life left here. Just death. No butterflies, no birds, no nothing'

2018-06-07 18:36
Wendy du Toit's home in Knysna Heights days after the June 2017 fire. (Supplied)

Wendy du Toit's home in Knysna Heights days after the June 2017 fire. (Supplied)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

The Knysna fires of 2017 were like walking into a war zone, says resident Wendy du Toit a year after the area’s devastating blazes. 

"Knysna Heights looked like bombs were thrown in the area… 24 of the 48 houses in the area were destroyed. Glass, smoke and burning buildings everywhere," Du Toit told News24. 

"When we arrived at our home, a day after the fire, everything was destroyed. A lifetime of memories disappeared in a minute."

Du Toit, 58, and her husband Kobus, 72, were among the 600 families who lost their homes in the fires of June 2017, which killed seven people, including a family of three who died on their farm in Elandskraal. 

Some 28 fires were reported in the area on June 8 alone. 

"There weren't thoughts of if we have to rebuild. Like any war, you just have to focus on survival,” said Du Toit, who had to take antidepressants after the fire. 

"There was no life left here. Just death. No butterflies, no birds, no nothing." 

A few kilometres from where the Du Toits rebuilt their property, the community of White Location is struggling to recover from the fire. 

Community worker Peggy Dlephu, 47, said most of the 300 people who were displaced by the fire had been unable to rebuild their lives. 

"Most are still staying with their friends and families. The fire took their livelihoods away," Dlephu said in a harsh tone.

"Where once they were employed by the big hotels in the area, the hotels burnt down and they are now left jobless. Something needs to change."

'There was no time for thinking'

The Western Cape government estimated that more than R136m worth of infrastructure damage occurred in Knysna over three days, but the damage to private property extends well beyond R4bn. 

Community worker Peggy Dlephu at a soup kitchen in White Location days after the Knysna fire. (Supplied)

 

On Thursday, Working on Fire (WoF) said the Knysna fire had resulted in the single largest deployment of firefighters in South African history.

"[The fire] caused devastation and destruction on a scale that had never been experienced [before]."

'There at the water, everyone was equal'

Working in the communities of Concordia, Xolweni and White Location, Dlephu has been helping over hundreds of families with temporary accommodation, food and clothes over the past year.

She said she still dreamed of running towards the water on the night of the fire.

"We were told, over the radio, to just run. Run to the water, because it was the only thing that could save us," she said softly. 

"If there’s one thing I learnt that night, it is that if God wants to take you, he doesn’t care about race, if you are rich or poor. There at the water, everyone was equal."

Read more on:    knysna  |  fire

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Cluster Financial Manager

Cape Town
Network Finance
R950 000.00 - R1 000 000.00 Per Year

IT Manager (contract)

Cape Town CBD
Communicate Cape Town IT
R330 000.00 - R458 000.00 Per Year

HSE Manager

Cape Town
Tumaini Consulting
R550 000.00 - R650 000.00 Per Year

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.