St Francis insurance claims stream in

An insurance company says claims are streaming in after the devastating fires at St Francis Bay on Sunday.

Dozens of houses were gutted when a fire spread through St Francis Bay on 11 November 2012. Picture: Supplied

CAPE TOWN - Insurance claims following the fire which engulfed St Francis Bay on Sunday night are streaming in, a leading financial company said on Monday.

At least 76 houses, flats and offices were destroyed when the blaze, fanned by strong winds, spread throughout the small coastal town in the Eastern Cape.

No one was injured, but it is believed the cost of the damages runs into hundreds of millions of rand.

At least a dozen families have been left homeless.

Firefighters managed to extinguish the raging flames in the early hours of Monday morning.

Some residents have already approached their insurance companies to lodge claims.

Alexander Forbes' Collin Mchunu said they received multi-million rand claims.

"We have about 98 clients that could be directly affected right now [in St Francis Bay]. Of the clients that call us directly, there are about seven at the moment, and the totalling there is just up to about R20 million."

He said the firm will cover the costs of people who are losing leasing income.

"The rent normally works on the basis of a percentage, which is up to 25 percent of the some in short. If the client does have tenants in a place, they'll be out of a place now and looking for accommodation. We then accommodate the insured."

Another insurance company reported receiving claims in excess of R30 million within 12 hours of the disaster.

Meanwhile, Kouga municipal officials refused to be drawn on the cause of the devastating fire.

Speculation amongst locals is that the raging blaze started from a braai fire at the Royal Wharf housing development.

Officials said it was unclear how the devastating St Francis Bay fire broke out.

They admitted there were many rumours being spread, but no concrete evidence.

Municipal fire experts were working closely with the Eastern Cape Police Forensic Unit. They started looking for clues on Monday morning among the remains of the multi-million rand homes.

While the investigation could take some time, many hope forensic teams are able to determine the cause of the fire soon.

DOUBLE DEVASTATION

A retired Belgium doctor who lost his holiday home in the devastating St Francis Bay fire said thieves and looters have targeted his property.

William Defossez said he spotted some of the culprits when he returned home after firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze.

The fire has been described by many locals the worst yet.

Defossez said he was shocked by the incident.

"I woke up and heard sirens. I looked out of the window and saw burning houses, not realising that my own home was also burning."

He said his wife tried to save some of their valuables.

"One of our friends came here and took my wife with him, she stopped him and wanted to take some stuff, but the roof started falling down."

A St Francis Bay resident and volunteer firefighter who tried to extinguish the blaze, Eric Stewart, said he had not seen anything like it before.

"The first fire was seen at 5:30pm, and that was just a braai that went haywire and from there everything just went so quickly."

Two firefighters sustained minor injuries and were released from hospital on Monday.