The smoke-engulfed town is a scene of orange and black. There is fire all around, and as the wind picks up, more flames are fanned.
This is the Armageddon-like scene described by a Knysna residents as several fires rage through the town.
“We are on Thesen Island. The whole town is in darkness except for the glow of the ring of fires around the town. The wind is very strong, perhaps at 40 or 50km/h, fires just keep starting up in new places,” said a despondent Diana Pieters.
Pieters said she has been living in the town for 24 years, and on Thesan Island for 12 years. She lives with her husband.
She says she has limited water due to the water restrictions put in place in the province as a result of the drought. Despite this, she tells News24 that she is attempting to get as much of the wooden sections of the house as possible as wet as possible.
“This is an unreal situation. It is chaotic for people trying to drive out of town. Telephone lines and cellphone towers have been burnt down, and it is difficult to get proper information as we cannot get hold of anyone,” she said.
The town is said to be enveloped in complete darkness due to power outages. Pieters said that the safest places to be are Thesen Island, Leisure Isle, and Loerie Park in town.
Another resident, Vivienne Pawson, says she first heard that both entrances into Knysna were closed off on the N2 due to smoke, which impaired vision.
By the time she was heading home mid-afternoon, shops had been closed, and the strong winds had already picked up, blowing her chimney off and resulting in erratic power outages.
“Two of my friends have been evacuated from Belvedere and Knysna Heights respectively and are staying with friends on this side. I fear one may have lost her home. Right now from my veranda (looking north-west) it looks like the fire has mostly burnt out in Belvedere and the worst of the blaze is now above town and Upper Old Place and moving towards Noetzie,” she said.
Roads are still closed between Plettenberg Bay and Knysna and Sedgefield and Knysna, Disaster Management and Social Service’s Fran Kirsten confirmed.
The number of those reported dead still remains at four, with officials monitoring the situation.
Spokesperson for MEC Anton Bredell, James-Brent Styan confirmed in a statement that reinforcements would be deployed to the area to assist those on the ground, including eight fire trucks from the City of Cape Town, two from the Overberg district and twelve others.
“Conditions include strong wind and lots of smoke which makes helicopter use not possible at present,” said Styan in a statement. – News24