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Knysna remains popular holiday destination

Thirty-five tourist establishments have been affected by the blaze, resulting in two and a half thousand job losses in the sector.

Knysna lagoon garden route. Picture: Supplied

CAPE TOWN - Officials in Knysna's tourism sector say international guests are still flocking to the Southern Cape town, despite the June firestorm.

Thirty-five tourist establishments have been affected by the blaze, resulting in two and a half thousand job losses in the sector.

But tour guide Chris Uys is positive the situation will soon change for the better.

“I’m sure that things will go back to normal for our tourism industry and I think it will take more time for the people living here.”

A visitor has vowed to return to the region.

“I have a lot of friends who have already been here who gave me a positive review of the place.”

Meanwhile, the town’s municipality is facing another potential crisis as it tries to mitigate the effects of recent wildfires.

The biggest concern for authorities right now is the risk of mudslides.

But they’ve come up with a novel way of dealing with the problem.

Charred remains of plant life can be seen topping blackened soil outside the town.

This is particularly dangerous because plant life stabilises slopes. Without the plants, the slopes are more prone to mudslides.

Knysna Mayor Eleanore-Bouw Spies is aware of the threat. She says they’ve been consulting experts on how to avoid that possibility.

“Together with the environmental team, we’re stabilising the slopes to prevent possible landslides.”

Cylindrical bags filled with alien vegetation are being fixed along the problem area.

It’s hoped these will shore up the slopes that could pose a danger, and remove the risk of another potential disaster.

FIRE CHIEF RELIVES SCENES OF JUNE FIRES

Knysna’s Fire Chief Clinton Manuel has told Eyewitness News what it was like to face June’s raging inferno.

Manuel says the recent firestorm is the worst he’s experienced in his 30 years as a firefighter.

Three months on he remembers what drove him day after day: a desire to save lives.

“We had to stop the two fires that were raging in the area and use the water and fire engine to create a safe passage for the people to evacuate.”

The situation was changeable, but Manuel says he was able to work with SANParks experts to anticipate changing winds and dispatch firefighting resources accordingly.

“When I said to the guys you need to move five inches toward the sageville side because we all know that’s the back of the pharmacy and in the next two hours, there is going to be damper.”

Over 1,000 firefighters were deployed to extinguish the Garden Route blaze.

KNYSNA NEEDS VISITORS

The town of Knysna is pulling together to reignite an economy ravaged by fire.

Knysna derives a big chunk of its annual income from tourism but June’s fire set the picturesque town back.

The fire raged for days, destroying homes and guesthouses.

But nearly three months after the blaze was finally brought under control, the town is rebuilding.

Across Knysna there are signs of green shoots, not just the vegetation poking through blackened slopes but in the economy too.

Around 50,000 visitors attended last month’s Knysna Oyster Festival. It’s admittedly fewer than last year. But Tourism spokesperson, Jeannine Orzechowski, says it’s a good sign.

“We really want the focus to be now on how Knysna survived the fires and how Knysna's moving forward and that Knysna needs visitors.”

Authorities estimate around 2,500 jobs were lost due to the fires.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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