Wildfires cause ‘severe devastation’ to at least 12 suburbs in Knysna

The Western Cape government has issued a warning that severe weather conditions, including storms, wildfires and snowfall will continue to hit the province on Thursday.

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.

Cape Town and surrounding areas experienced severe storm conditions on Wednesday, as high-speed winds, lighting and heavy rain caused damage to homes and infrastructure.

While conditions eased up on Thursday, the WC government urged citizens to steer clear of beaches and other waters, and the risk of flash flooding and extreme run-off was high.

According to the WC government, approximately 827 Informal settlement structures were damaged due to flooding and had roofs blown off.

“Humanitarian relief has been offered to 2,502 people across the Metro. A number of trees were uprooted in the Metro. Widespread electrical outages reported across the Metro are being assessed,” it said.

Fires rip into Knysna

As the storms were raging over Cape Town, Knysna, along the Garden Route, was hit by a breakout of 26 different wildfires, which tore into the town, damaging homes and flora in the region.

About 10,000 citizens had to be evacuated as the fires ripped into at least 12 suburbs, leaving destruction in its path.

The Western Cape Government said that before dawn on Thursday, the united Incident Command Centre was assessing damage to almost 20 suburbs.

“No further storm or fire-related human fatalities have been reported since the deaths of three people in Rheenendal yesterday. The total number of storm and fire-related fatalities across the Western Cape remains eight (8),” it said.

“No additional fatalities reported despite severe conditions overnight.”

Early estimates included severe devastation to the following suburbs of Knysna:

  • Brenton-on-Lake
  • Brenton-on-Sea
  • Nania
  • Eastford
  • Knysna Heights
  • Fisherhaven
  • Brakenhill
  • Belvedere Heights
  • Green Pastures
  • Greenfield
  • Jood se Kamp
  • White Location

The government said that a damage assessments will be done later on Thursday.

It urged residents not to return to their homes, as the fire continues to burn on two broad fronts.

“Reports of some evacuees heading back to evacuated areas in Knysna is a matter of concern.  This is not recommended and placing additional strain on the emergency responders on the ground,” the provincial government said.

“Citizens will be informed when it is safe to return to areas that have been evacuated.”

The government warned that communication systems in the area are down or faulty, and warned concerned families and friends to be wary of information shared on social media.

Wednesday’s storm conditions saw a slew of faked images and reports emerge on social media, spreading misinformation about the condition of the city and some people in it.

“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,” the city said.

At least 8 people have been confirmed killed in the Cape Town storm and the Knysna fires combined.

Snow is falling too

A further warning has been issued regarding snowfall in regions of the Western Cape and the Northern Cape.

Snowfall has been recorded in Sutherland (NC), Matroosberg (WC) and other high-lying areas.

Residents and travellers have been warned to proceed with caution, particularly as snow makes driving conditions extremely difficult.

Read: Cape Town beefs up water police – targets spot fines of up to R5,000

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Wildfires cause ‘severe devastation’ to at least 12 suburbs in Knysna