KNYSNA, June 10 – Conditions in the Eden district, including Knysna, have taken a turn for the worse with gale force winds having picked up in the past few hours from 11am, the Western Cape government said on Saturday.
Eleven aircraft had been working in the region, including three South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Oryx helicopters with a fourth inbound, Western Cape local government MEC Anton Bredell’s spokesman James-Brent Styan said.
“These assets have been working tirelessly during the morning [Saturday] but have now all been grounded till further notice due to the bad weather conditions making flying unsafe. This will make the situation this afternoon very difficult,” he said.
Between 500 and 800 firefighters remained on duty in the region working in shifts. Residents near Buffels Bay Nature Reserve had been evacuated from their houses onto the adjacent beach as a precautionary measure to allow fire-fighters to extinguish the fire in the area. In addition, around 150 residents of the Fairview and Gansvlei communities were evacuated during the night and early hours of Saturday morning.
In total, to date, 408 formal and 200 informal structures had been completely destroyed in Knysna, with 20 private homes destroyed in Plettenberg Bay. Electricity and water supply remained a cause for concern in the Knysna area with the dam level at 31 percent, Styan said.
Knysna hospital was damaged and was still closed. A technical team was trying to get into the hospital as soon as possible. The SANDF had set up a mobile unit to assist with medical support. There had been increased cases of people affected by smoke inhalation. All maternity cases were going to Knysna Life Hospital.
By 12.30pm on Saturday the confirmed number of fatalities in the Eden district remained five. The injured firefighter from Friday remained in hospital in Plettenberg Bay in a serious condition.
“Conditions may improve from late afternoon and some light rain is forecast for tomorrow [Sunday] in the region. The challenge remains the remainder of the day and all efforts will be undertaken to contain the fire line as far as possible,” he said.
– African News Agency (ANA)