NEWS

Storm, Fires Displace Western Cape Residents

Capetonians are heading for shelters and areas of Knysna have been evacuated.

08/06/2017 06:35 SAST | Updated 08/06/2017 06:45 SAST
Rodger Bosch via Getty Images
Waves of foam and seawater crash into Three Anchor Bay in Cape Town on June 7 2017, as an intense storm hits South Africa's west coast.

Scores of Capetonians will spend the night in community halls and shelters following a raging storm that is expected to lash much of the Western Cape until Friday.

Safety and security mayoral committee member JP Smith said 870 structures had been destroyed while more than 2 500 people had been affected by water-logged homes. More than 100 people have been displaced and would be spending the night at community halls, while more than 100 homeless people had sought shelter at night havens.

Smith said about 100 trees were uprooted, which resulted in several blocked roads and snapped power lines. Several coastal roads were closed owing to high tide.

"About 148 homeless people have been encouraged to take shelter as the weather is expected to last throughout the night with rain also being forecast for tonight [Wednesday]. The storm is expected to carry on until 06 a.m. [on Thursday]," he said.

According to Disaster Management's Charlotte Powell, their NGO partners were helping by providing hot meals, blankets and clothing to assist those affected. Residents in informal settlements were being provided with flood kits, said Powell.

Powell said the Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA) was providing sandbags and sand to affected communities with standby crews ready to attend to any flooding.

Blankets

Hassan Khan, CEO of Haven Night Shelter, appealed to those who were able to help to donate single bed blankets as more people made their way to the shelter and out of the cold. The shelter is able to take in up to 1 300 people.

"As a shelter, we have 1 300 formal beds, which have already been occupied, with the remainder of people sitting on chairs and in dining halls. We are climbing closer to 1 500 people who are taking up room in our formal beds.

"We offer those who are homeless blankets as it gets colder, food and general hospitality for about 10 days. We are hoping to get those who are here to stay permanently so that they can stay here and talk to our social workers, who might be able to get them in touch with their families," said Khan, adding that people can only stay at the shelter for six months.

Capetonians had been asked to remain indoors following the storm ravaging the province, damaging malls and property, fanning fires and leading to a number of blocked roads.

Eight people have been confirmed dead, four of whom died owing to fire caused by lightning.

"We remain concerned about the extreme cold weather moving into the province as night falls, and urge the public to remain indoors and dress warmly," said James-Brent Styan, spokesperson for the province's local government MEC, Anton Bredell.

The South African Weather Service said the Western Cape was currently on a severe weather warning, with wind speeds reported to be between 70 and 100 km/h. The City said that rainfall figures ranged between 20mm and 50mm in the Peninsula, with more rain expected overnight. - News24

In Knysna, evacuees were being taken to the Loerie Park area in town while firefighters battled to get the blaze under control, Styan said on Wednesday.

Several areas had already been evacuated. These included Belvedere, Welbedacht, Nania, Eastford, Green Pastures and Knysna Heights.

"There is shelter in that area. Further arrangements will be made when and if needed," he said, adding that there was currently no call for a mass evacuation of the entire town of Knysna.

Go George Buses had already been called in to provide mass transport to citizens in the town and 15 buses were on the site, he said.

Additional firefighting resources had been deployed to the area to assist the teams on the ground.

"These include eight fire trucks from the City of Cape Town, two from the Overberg district and 12 additional Working on Fire teams," he said. Conditions were not viable for a helicopter because of the strong wind and smoke.

News24 reporter Alex Mitchley reported that community members in Buffalo Bay had also been evacuated. Buffalo Bay is about 20 km outside of Knysna.

According to Luzaan Venter, her sister Dorianne Munro and her boyfriend were on a farm near Buffalo Bay when they had to evacuate.

"Her boyfriend stayed behind to stop the fire from getting to the house," said Venter. - News24

MORE:News