Fires continued to rage across the Southern Cape in South Africa on Tuesday, as firefighters battle against windy conditions that keep changing.
In its latest update, the Garden Route District Municipality complimented the South African Police Service (SAPS) for being an asset. The municipality said SAPS “confirmed a lot of information and have been a valuable component to accurate synopsis of the situation in especially the Rheenendal and Karatara areas.”
Tragically at least nine people – including a pregnant mother and children – lost their lives in the Karatara fire yesterday.
According to Knysna Municipal Disaster Manager, Richard Meyer, the fire that spread from the George area jumped from Farleigh across to Bosdorp, Karatara killing nine residents and destroying three structures in its path.
Today Acting Minister of Environmental Affairs Derek Hanekom visited the firefighters and victims who lose their homes. He said: “Seeing the flames, seeing the smoke it really hits home.”
Working on Fire (WoF) said this evening that their Eastern Cape branch has dispatched a chopper, spotter, bomber and two Stutterheim teams to assist in suppressing the fire in Balindlela Farm.
Meanwhile they have 33 firefighters battling to suppress the fires that have spread to Tsitsikamma forest.
The Garden Route Municipality said firefighting efforts had been hampered by cellular signals not working so that teams are unable to communicate well.
They said evacuations are ongoing at De Vlugt presently, and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Oryx has been deployed to assist with battling the wildfire.
Evacuations at Rheendendal have been put on hold, thanks to a change in wind direction. However the “Kraaibosch area near Rheenendal is a cause for concern as the wildfire is approaching it. Power lines have made it difficult for aircraft to bomb the fire lines as bombers had to unload water at a higher than usual altitude.”
The Municipality explained the valley and mountainous areas have created microclimate conditions, which have led to ever-changing wind-directions. The indigenous forest in the area was also unfortunately unable to fully block the fire as had been expected.
If the wind direction stays as it is, there will be less concern for Kraaibosch.
“Black wattle and other invasive alien plants pose a major threat due to it burning at an extremely high intensity. Infrastructure in this area could be at risk if the wind direction should change,” said the Municipality.
People have been evacuated from Keerhoek (an informal settlement on the edge of Rheenendal).
Most other fires (of which there are at least seven) are contained at the moment.
The Jonkersberg Fire is currently inaccessible and will continue burning up the mountain.
The Knysna Municipality said the devastating wildfire that caused such damage and destruction yesterday to both Farleigh and Karatara had actually followed the same path as that of the tragic 7 June 2018 fires.
Disaster Manager Meyer said: “We are grateful to the farming community for the use of their firefighting equipment which augmented the firefighting effort.”
#GardenRouteFires UpdateOuteniqua Pass / Robinson Pass open.Montagu Pass remains closed. N2 closed between…
#GardenRouteFires"Seeing the flames, seeing the smoke it really hits home." Acting Minister Derek Hanekom addresses the Working on Fire firefighters and the victims who lost their homes in Karatara.#SavingLives #ProtectingTheEnvironment #RestoringDignity
Posted by Working on Fire on Tuesday, October 30, 2018
— Kathryn Witthuhn (@KathrynWitthuhn) October 30, 2018
Aerial Support: will be redeployed to attend to other fires in the region and focused on areas needed. Will be working from George. Resources: Currently over 593 resources available in the field throughout the district.#SavingLives #ProtectingTheEnvironment #RestoringDignity pic.twitter.com/j8wLlQmJw2
— Working on Fire (@wo_fire) October 30, 2018
STATUS OF GEORGE FIRES
Seven Passes, Saasveld, Witfontein, Geelhoutboom is managed. Fernridge and Glenbarrie periodic flareups which are being managed with no threat to infrastructure. Noll area fire very active (farmland) pic.twitter.com/qChI5IxGDU
— Working on Fire (@wo_fire) October 30, 2018
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the devastating wildfires in the Southern Cape. Thank you to the brave men and women who are fighting these fires. You are heroes! #Georgefire pic.twitter.com/OKwOdIM0OI
— Stellenbosch Municipality (@StellMun) October 30, 2018