Thursday, 8 June 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: Fire In Knysna Cape Town More Than 10,000 Residents Evacuated

More than 10,000 people have been evacuated from a scenic coastal town in South Africa that has been devastated by wildfires, officials have said.

Military equipment has been used to fightmore than 25 fires in Knysna, they added.

At least eight people have been killed in the storms and fires that have been raging in the town and other areas of the Western Cape region.

Strong wind storms in 30 years caused the fires.

At least 150 properties have been destroyed in Knysna, according to the fire service.

The town has a population of 77,000. It lies 500km (310 miles) east of Cape Town on South Africa's famed Garden Route.

Humanitarian support is being co-ordinated for an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 residents of the Greater Knysna area, after devastating fires, said James-Brent Styan, spokesman for the Western Cape local government ministry.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would assist in a water-bombing operation to extinguish the fires, its spokesman Simphiwe Dlamini said.

About 150 troops would also be deployed to make sure that criminals do not loot properties that have been vacated, he added.

In May, the Western Cape province declared a drought disaster after two reservoirs had completely dried up. It was said to have been the region's worst drought in more than a century.

Several other southern African nations were also affected by the two-year drought, which was caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon.

However, many parts of the region are now experiencing bumper maize harvests.

Up to ten thousand people were evacuated from their homes as fires continued to ravage South Africa's Western Cape region on Thursday, fanned by a ferocious winter storm.

Knysna, a town of 77,000 people 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of Cape Town on South Africa's famed Garden Route, was worst hit as firefighters battled to quell 26 fires along the tourist trail.

High winds from a storm that claimed eight lives as it battered the Western Cape region have caused the blaze to spread rapidly.

The storm, which struck on Tuesday, has damaged buildings, felled trees, left 46,000 homes without electricity and caused travel chaos as flights and rail services were hit by gale-force winds and flooding.

Colin Deiner, the chief director of the Western Cape's fire service, told Voice of the Cape radio that at least 150 structures had been destroyed.

Western Cape premier Helen Zille told Kaya FM: "What we need is air power -- water-bombing, and helicopters to see which areas are affected and who needs to be evacuated."

Zille has been suspended from her party the main opposition Democratic Alliance over tweets apparently endorsing colonialism, but remains head of the regional government. She spent the night in Knysna to coordinate the response of emergency services to the crisis.

The fire in Knysna is the largest and most destructive fire in a built up area in the Western Cape in recent memory with thousands displaced.

It comes on the back of the worst storm seen in the Western Cape in at least thirty years, said Western Cape government spokesman James-Brent Styan in a statement. To date between 8,000 and 10,000 Knysna inhabitants have been safely evacuated."