Between 3 000 to 4 000 people are still displaced in Knysna after being evacuated from a fire that threatened to engulf the town this week, local authorities said on Friday.
“Some areas that were evacuated have been declared safe and people from those areas have been allowed to return home,” said local government spokesperson James Brent-Styan in the latest situation report.
“In areas that have NOT been declared safe, people will not be allowed to return till the situation is safe,” he said.
At least five people died during the fire – a family of three, a small child, and firefighter Bradley Richards among them.
Western Cape Local Government MEC Anton Bredell extended his condolences to Richards’ family Theresa and Norman Doyle.
“Each fatality is a new tragedy. We do what we can to prevent tragedies like this but the nature of these incidents are serious and often life-threatening. We are thinking of the emergency services personnel still in action, especially following the latest tragedy.”
A second firefighter was also injured while fighting the blaze.
But as authorities work on restoring water supplies, communications systems and essential infrastructure, some families and friends are frantic about not being able to get hold of their loved ones in the area which is popular with retired people.
Missing persons SMS line
To help families in this regard, the Gift of the Givers has stepped up to help locate missing people.
The charity’s director Imtiaz Sooliman said they would set up a team to help worried families locate people they have not been able to make contact with.
Anybody who knows the whereabouts of Laurence McGorian, 80, Carol Hendey, 90, Renier Kok, 28, and his wife Alicia Horn, 21, is asked to SMS the Gift of the Givers on 083 236 4029, to put their families’ minds at ease.
“In the chaos, people lost their phones,” said Sooliman.
Anybody who needs help locating a person can SMS a picture, the name and where the person lived, and relief workers will put feelers out to find them at the above number.
Sooliman said that people should also say on the SMS if the missing person has a medical condition and if they are on chronic medication.
Meanwhile, a misplaced people register has been set up on Facebook by volunteers at Eden/KnysnaFire Misplaced Persons Register.
A list of missing people is available on Found People – Reconnected with Loved Ones and they are marked found as they are connected with their loved ones.
There is also a list of evacuees available on A-Z People in known Shelters at 12h30 8th June – details to be added as we find info to help families make contact.
Facebook also activated its service where people can mark themselves safe.
Western Cape Social Development Department spokesperson Sihle Ngobese said staff and management of residential facilities for the elderly had reported to the department to say that everybody had been evacuated safely, and had been reported to their families.
Ngobese said social media had helped a lot in tracking down missing relatives.
One woman, Michelle Thomas, pleaded from Abu Dhabi where she works, for information on her father Lou, who was incommunicado.
Her Facebook friends immediately leapt into action, sharing information on where evacuees had been taken.
One suggestion was to call the National Sea Rescue Institute, which had evacuated many of the elderly people from the area her father lives in by rubber dingy through the estuary, to St James.
Eventually, a relieved Thomas posted that he had been tracked down.[Source: news24]