Eight killed as storms & wild fires rage in South Africa

As Cape Town recovers from heavy storms with gale force winds and flash floods, authorities evacuate at least 10,000 people from Knysna as wild fires being accelerated by strong winds wreak havoc.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

In this photo taken Wednesday, June 7, 2017, firemen fight a blaze in the Kranshoek area in South Africa.

At least 10,000 people were evacuated from their homes as fires continues to ravage South Africa's Western Cape region on Thursday, fanned by a ferocious winter storm.

Knysna, a town of 77,000 people 500 km east of Cape Town on South Africa's famed Garden Route, was worst hit as firefighters battled to quell 26 fires along the tourist trail. 

High winds from a storm that claimed eight lives as it battered the Western Cape region have caused the blaze to spread rapidly.

Waves break over a sea wall at Cape Town harbour on June 7, 2017. The ferocious storm killed eight people as it pummelled South Africa's west coast forcing the closure of the harbour. (AFP)

The heavy winter storm, which made landfall on Tuesday, damaged buildings, felled trees, left 46,000 homes without electricity and caused travel chaos as flights and rail services were hit by gale force winds and flooding.

Colin Deiner, the chief director of the Western Cape's fire service, told a local radio station that at least 150 structures had been destroyed.

Local officials are now considering calling on the air force to help extinguish the blazes.

Air power needed

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille told another radio station, "What we need is air power – water-bombing, and helicopters to see which areas are affected and who needs to be evacuated."

Zille has been suspended from her party – the main opposition Democratic Alliance – over tweets apparently endorsing colonialism, but remains head of the regional government. She spent the night in Knysna coordinating the response of emergency services to the crisis.

"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 30 years," said Western Cape government spokesman James-Brent Styan in a statement.

"To date between 8,000 and 10,000 Knysna inhabitants have been safely evacuated."

Local media reported on Thursday that the South African Air Force had agreed to deploy five helicopter to help with rescue operations.

However, weather conditions were hampering any efforts by air.

It further reported that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would deploy troops to patrol and stop any looting from taking place in evacuated areas.

The SANDF, according to the agency, said that the SAND would also supply water tankers to the affected areas.

TRTWorld and agencies