After two days of devastating fires across the Garden Route –- which saw thousands of residents displaced and more than 300 lose their homes -– locals and emergency workers could breathe a hopeful sigh of relief on Thursday night when most fires had been contained.
The worst affected areas include Knysna where authorities confirmed that about 3,000 residents had been evacuated as large parts of the coastal holiday town went up in flames.
Early indications reveal that about 300 structures had been destroyed in the area. Neighbouring town Plettenberg Bay also saw large scale evacuations with about 1000 people having been forced to flee their homes as the fire ripped through the town’s Kranshoek and Whale Rock areas.
About 30 homes are believed to have been destroyed. With all local resources having been activated and assistance from neighbouring areas as well as nationally, by Thursday night authorities in both towns confirmed that while firefighters were still working around the clock, most of the fires had been contained.
The Eden disaster management team also confirmed that there were no longer any runaway fires and that aerial support had been utilised for about an hour late Thursday afternoon.
“We are not completely out of the woods yet. Firefighters are still dealing with flare-ups,” Knysna municipal spokesman Christopher Bezuidenhout said on Thursday night.
Bitou municipal spokesman Howard Swartz confirmed a similar situation in Plettenberg Bay.
“There are still places smoldering and there flare-ups every now and again, but so far the fire seems to be under control,” Swartz said.
Eden district disaster management confirmed firefighters had responded to at least 26 fires along the Garden Route over the past two days.
“We are good for now, but if Mother Nature decides to take a turn for the worst, we could be back at square one again,” Swartz said.
In both areas authorities have started counting the costs of the devastation.
“Our first priority was to contain the fires, it is only now that were are able to establish the extent of the damage. The thick smoke has also made it very difficult to ascertain the exact destruction,” Swartz said.
In the meantime several relief efforts are underway along the Garden Route with donations from across the country being sent to the affected areas.[Source: African News Agency]