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08 Feb 2010 15:49
Wildfires continued to rage in the Southern Cape on Monday, with 180 veld and forest firefighters on the ground beating back flames at seven different blazes, authorities said.
The head of disaster management in the region, Gerhard Otto, said late on Monday afternoon that the fires had become worse rather than better.
“It’s hot, it’s dry, it’s windy and there is just no relief in sight,” he said.
The worst blaze was in Knysna, where firefighters were working to save homes and businesses.
The fire was burning in timber, fynbos and old grass.
“Just about anything that can burn is burning,” said Otto.
In Plettenberg Bay, a similar fire was also threatening properties.
Helicopters from Working on Fire and the South African National Defence Force were water-bombing the blazes.
A disaster centre that could mobilise all emergency resources was opened in George on Monday morning.
The teams on the ground were made up of firefighters from the Eden district municipality, South African National Parks, CapeNature, the Working on Fire Programme and other organisations.
Another 180 firefighters from Working on Fire’s KwaZulu-Natal and Free State teams had begun arriving in the area to help.
According to Annelize Lamprecht, fire chief for Eden, there were also fires in the Haarlem area near George, in the Rheenendal area as well as two fires in Still Bay.
In the Boland, the Franschhoek Pass was closed to traffic on Monday morning because of a fire, and CapeNature warned motorists in a statement to stay clear of it.
It said the blaze, reportedly started by workers using an open fire to cook food, had burned about 4 800ha of the Jonkershoek and Hottentots Holland nature reserves over the last four days.
CapeNature’s operations director, Fanie Bekker, said 160 firefighters from his organisation and the Cape Winelands district municipality had been called in.
By midday on Monday, the fire was approaching farms including Three Streams and Bordeaux.
Bekker said the hot weather and light wind meant thick smoke was covering the area, making it difficult for the helicopters to take to air.
“The cost implications are huge and have run into hundreds of thousands of rands, because of the extent of the fire,” he said.—Sapa
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