'Massive' evacuation under way in Knysna as Garden Route fire rages

By Naledi Shange And The Herald

Emergency services have begun evacuating parts of Knysna in the Western Cape as a massive fire raged late into the evening on Wednesday.

It was a “massive” evacuation‚ said Western Cape local governance spokesman James-Brent Styan‚ though he could not immediately estimate how many people had been moved from their homes.

At least three people have died in the fires.

“These are the worst fires I have seen in the 45 years I’ve lived in Knysna‚” said the town’s mayor‚ Eleanore Bouw-Spies.

Firefighters on Wednesday responded to at least 26 fires along the Garden Route as most of Plettenberg Bay‚ Knysna‚ Sedgefield and Wilderness were shrouded in smoke.

Eden disaster management boss Gerhard Otto said three people – a farmworker‚ his wife and their son – had died in a fire in Rheenendal just outside Knysna.

He said details of the deaths were unclear but all available staff had been deployed to deal with the fires‚ including staff that had been on rest breaks.

By mid-morning‚ about 13 houses had already been evacuated just outside Knysna towards Plettenberg Bay. The N2 between the two coastal holiday towns were closed due to low visibility.

Knysna municipal spokesperson Fran Kirsten said residents had also been evacuated from Belvedere‚ Brenton-on-Sea and Karatara outside Knysna‚ among other areas.

Plettenberg Bay and Knysna were also without power for most of Wednesday because of the fires.

Knysna fire chief Clinton Manual said at least four homes had been destroyed in the Knysna fires. He said there was little hope of stopping the fire and officials would just continue evacuating all those in its path.

At least 11 fire engines were deployed to the area from neighbouring towns and the City of Cape Town.

Working on Fire has deployed more than 120 firefighters to the area.

Meanwhile‚ those in need of help may have difficulty contacting the local fire station as several people tweeted that phone lines were down.

>https://twitter.com/PlatGoldNews/status/872519858214273026

One woman took to Twitter to say an elderly woman was stranded on a hilltop after fleeing her burning home.

Residents had difficulty reaching the fire station for assistance.

>https://twitter.com/jessicajaneact/status/872521230439546891

Panic was spreading‚ with some people struggling to locate their relatives.

>https://twitter.com/uYonwabisa/status/872520543248973828

Tiso Black Star Group Digital

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