NEWS

Army Deployed To Prevent Looting As Cape Fires Spread, Death Toll Rises To Four

The fires have already affected about 10 000 residents and 20 suburbs, and are spreading in Plettenberg Bay and Port Elizabeth.

08/06/2017 11:11 SAST | Updated 08/06/2017 11:19 SAST
Jose A Teijeiro via Getty Images

Military personnel have been deployed to the Knysna area to try and prevent looting as wildfires rip through the area, already affecting about 10 000 residents and 20 suburbs.

The death toll as a result of the fires has risen to four.

At the same time, blazes are spreading in Plettenberg Bay and around Port Elizabeth.

A Plettenberg Bay resident called News24 on Thursday morning, saying his suburb was on fire and was being evacuated.

Several buildings were gutted.

Choppers deployed

South African National Defence Force (SANDF) spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobhozi said on Thursday that helicopters would help drop water on the blazes to try and bring them under control.

The provincial government issued a statement on Thursday morning saying it was assisting 8 000 to 10 000 residents in the greater Knysna area were being assistedafter fires late on Wednesday forced a mass evacuation.

"Before dawn this [Thursday] morning, the united Incident Command Centre was assessing damage to almost 20 suburbs," it said.

"No further storm or fire-related human fatalities have been reported since the deaths of three people in Rheenendal [on Wednesday]."

The statement said early estimates showed there was severe damage to suburbs, including Brenton-on-Lake, Brenton-on-Sea, Nania, Eastford, Knysna Heights, Fisherhaven and Brakenhill.

Further damage assessments would be done later on Thursday.

"Citizens will be informed when it is safe to return to areas that have been evacuated," the provincial government said.

"At present, a process of registers of names and details of displaced people are being implemented in the various places of refuge in the Knysna area, where evacuees have been taken. The details will be communicated to the public as soon as possible."

Animals

Assistance for animals had to be brought in from another province.

The NSPCA said it had dispatched its disaster teams from Alberton in Gauteng to help animals affected by the fires in Knysna. Many had been displaced or severely injured. They needed food, water and medical attention.

"The situation is dire. Farm animals and wildlife, including small mammals which could not escape the fires are affected, as are domestic animals including pets."

Eastern Cape fires

On Thursday morning firefighters were battling runaway fires in the Van Stadens and Thornhill areas near Port Elizabeth, Netcare 911 said.

Both areas had to be evacuated owing to the intensity of the fires, spokesperson Chris Botha said.

"As the day broke, the devastation was visible as many houses and veld areas were burnt to the ground," Botha said.

Some firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation.

Nelson Mandela Municipality spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki said firefighters worked overnight to stop the fire from damaging property. No injuries had been reported.

"Poor visibility due to smoke and the fact that it was during the night made it difficult to penetrate some areas. Now that it is clearer and the wind speed has decreased, an all-round inspection will be made," Mniki said. - News24

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