'We don't know what happened' – relative of Southern Cape fire victims recalls chaotic evacuation

2018-10-31 23:08

The farming community Farleigh in the Southern Cape is a ghost town following a fire that claimed eight lives on Tuesday.

When News24 arrived, only the carcasses of burnt-out cars and rubble remained of the once vibrant community.

Residents were quickly evacuated and accommodated in Sedgefield Town Hall on Monday evening when a raging fire spread from a nearby mountain to the residences.

However, eight people including six children were not so lucky.

PICS: Firefighting efforts continue in De Vlugt area

Sharon Pieterson, a relative of four of the deceased, fondly remembers the Oelf children who died – Nalaya, Niah, Aliyah and Nalani.

"[Nalaya] used to play with my daughter. They went to school together," she told News24.

"They were supposed to go camping in December and my children are sad that she is no longer with us. The others were very, very small – were still in pre-school."

'I was so confused'

Pieterson, who lives on a farm close to the Farleigh area, was evacuated and moved to Sedgefield Town Hall before she discovered what had happened to her family.

"We don't know what happened. We just came out of the shop and everyone was being evacuated. Only then did we hear about the children and the grandmother who died."

Samantha Windwaai from Karatara described the chaotic evacuation scene on Monday afternoon.

"I didn't see the fire, but everything was chaotic and we were just running around. It wasn't good. A lot of our children were affected by the smoke," she said while comforting her 8-month-old daughter, Sumeya.

"I was so confused, I just jumped into a lady's car and she said let's go. Then she dropped us off at the hall."

The community of Farleigh stands empty after a fir

The community of Farleigh stands empty after a fire claimed the lives of eight people. (Christina Pitt, News24)

 

Fortunately, Windwaai did not lose her home in the fire but sympathises with those who have been left with nothing.

"I feel very bad in my heart. There are many people who won't have a place to sleep tonight. And there are small children whose clothing was all burned in the fire."

Call for donations

Sedgefield Town Hall currently accommodates evacuees from Beervlei, Karatara and Farleigh and provides basic needs, including grief counselling.

Many of the evacuees are current SanParks employees and former employees of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, SanParks spokesperson Nandi Mgwadlamba explained.

The conservation authority is partnering with the Knysna municipality to provide short to long-term food, accommodation and grief counselling for those affected by the fire.

"They were really shocked [when they arrived]. They are going through debriefing and counselling, which is really important," Mgwadlamba said.

"They have just seen the most incredulous fire which is just really traumatic for them. If you look at our stats, some of the information that we're are getting now shows that the fire was moving at 108km/h." 

The community of Farleigh stands empty after a fir

The community of Farleigh stands empty after a fire claimed the lives of eight people. (Christina Pitt, News24)

 

Mgwadlamba encouraged the broader Garden Route community to assist by making donations.

Non-perishables, clothes, blankets, pillows and shoes can be delivered to Ebb & Flow Rest Camp reception, Wilderness or the Knysna office on Thesen Island.

The community of Farleigh stands empty after a fir

The community of Farleigh stands empty after a fire claimed the lives of eight people. (Christina Pitt, News24)

The community of Farleigh stands empty after a fir
The community of Farleigh stands empty after a fire claimed the lives of eight people. (Christina Pitt, News24)

Read more on:    cape town  |  fires

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
Traffic

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Reporting Accountant

Cape Town
Network Finance Professional / Prudential
R310 000.00 - R360 000.00 Per Year

HSE Manager

Cape Town
Tumaini Consulting
R550 000.00 - R650 000.00 Per Year

IT Manager (contract)

Cape Town CBD
Communicate Cape Town IT
R330 000.00 - R458 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.