From the news desk

Devastating Knysna fires yet to be contained

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Following devastating scenes of Knysna residents watching their town be engulfed in raging flames and the town being officially declared a disaster zone, the fire is yet to be contained. This while helicopters are preparing to start water bombing hot spots in Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and other Garden Route areas. Firefighting crews worked throughout Thursday evening to prevent flare-ups as many blazes were contained, but not under control. At least four lives were lost in the fires and around 150 homes were destroyed. Around 10-thousand evacuated people have not yet been able to return to start rebuilding their lives.

Yesterday, Western Cape premier Helen Zille visited the town, where she shared her shock at the damage caused by blaze.

“Its Hardly imaginable that so much damage can be wreaked by a fire, but it started on both sides of the town and the town was completely cut-off – so this is definitely a disaster and so we must first assess how much help is needed.”

She says that the first priority at this stage is to ensure that all those evacuated are fed and sheltered.

“Our first priority is to stabilize the situation, to deal with homeless people and to make sure that everyone is fed and sheltered and then we will be looking at steps from that point.”

While firefighters continue to contain the blaze, at the time of publication, Plettenberg Bay volunteer firefighter Bradley Richards, who sustained severe burn wounds, was on life support in a George hospital. Richards and a fellow firefighter, Ian Barnard, were injured when the fire turned on them in the middle of Knysna’s Harkerville Forest.

Meanwhile, eighty schools across the Western Cape have reported cases of storm damage to the Safe Schools call centre. The centre is still trying to reach a number of affected schools.

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson, Jessica Shelver says at this stage, it is still too early to assess the costs involved.

“Our infrastructure teams are on the ground with officials, visiting schools and we will be in a better position to comment on the damage once we have compiled these reports.”

Given the extensive damage at schools and Wednesdays closure of provincial schools, she says the WCED is grateful for the patience observed by parents and educators.

“We are deeply appreciative of our parents, principals and teachers in their willingness to work with our officials in meeting these challenges positively.”

The South Africa Weather Service says following the storm, most parts of the country will experience, very low temperatures this weekend. Forecaster Dipuo Tawana, says the fresh cold front will, however, not be as severe.

VOC 91.3fm

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