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‘If our property burns down, we’ll have no other place to go’

Eight people have been killed and the fire has burned 48,000 hectares of vegetation between George and Knysna since last week.

The aftermath of a fire which destroyed 13 houses in Farleigh Forest in Karatara in the Southern Cape on 30 October 2018. Picture: Monique Mortlock/EWN

GEORGE - Southern Cape residents evacuated due to a major wildfire are concerned about their houses.

Eight people have been killed and the fire has burned 48,000 hectares of vegetation between George and Knysna since last week.

Although temperatures have dropped, strong winds are hampering firefighting efforts.

Several communities have been evacuated as a precaution in George and Knysna.

Municipalities in the different areas are accommodating residents in various locations, like the George Town Hall.
In Karatara, a few dozen residents from informal settlements situated on the mountain slopes above the town have been placed in the community centre.

One of the evacuated residents from Bergvlei settlement, Martin Schoeman, says the fire edged close to their houses on Monday.

“There was too much smoke. The smoke yesterday was the reason we had to get out.”

Schoeman says they're concerned about their belongings as they could only leave with a few items.

“If our property burns down, we’ll have no other place to go. We have animals there. We don’t earn a lot, so the animals – the sheep and pigs – are important.”

‘UNPREDICTABLE’

A massive fire in the Garden Route has been described as "unpredictable."

Provincial and national government officials are in the area, working alongside municipalities in George and Knysna.

Acting Environmental Affairs Minister Derek Hanekom says there's no telling in which direction the fire will spread as the winds change so quickly. Hanekom says the worst affected vegetation has been alien invasive species.

Meanwhile, firefighters will continue with mopping-up operations in parts where they've managed to contain the fire, like in this part of Karatara.

Other teams will continue fighting fire in areas where strong winds are fanning the flames.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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