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Man opens up after losing 8 relatives in Southern Cape fire

The blaze has destroyed 19 homes and tens of thousands of hectares of vegetation.

Tree stumps burn as firefighters manager parts of the George wild fire in the Southern Cape. Picture: Bertram Malgas/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Eyewitness News has confirmed that eight people killed in the Garden Route blaze are related.

The blaze, which has been raging for about a week now, has destroyed 19 homes and tens of thousands of hectares of vegetation.

Officials are investigating the cause of the fire and still assessing the cost of the damage.

The deceased's relative Benjamin Oelf says the last time he saw them was at his two-year-old son’s funeral last year.

Now, Oelf has eight more funerals to arrange: that of his sister, his brother’s girlfriend, his nephew and his five nieces, the youngest being 11-month-old Nalani.

They died earlier this week when a blaze engulfed their house in Farleigh Forest in Karatara.

“I haven’t been thinking too much about it. Because I think I have a choice: It’s either I grieve now that they’re gone or I’m here for my family. I choose to be here for them now. I think in my own time I’ll grieve.”

Oelf, who works in Johannesburg, says he’ll stay to support the family as long as he needs to.

WATCH: Southern Cape families speak of the day they lost everything

Oelf was in Johannesburg when he heard the George wildfire was getting closer to his family’s home in Farleigh Forest. He knew he had to leave and get to them as fast as possible.

“I heard that our house had been burnt down, by that point, there was no confirmation of loss of life. But at that point I knew, I need to be here for my family.”

But when he arrived on Tuesday, he learnt that he was too late.

“Tomorrow it’ll be 10 months since I lost my son who was two years old. I’m currently living in this world where I can’t lose more family. I think I’m blocking it out.”

For now, Oelf says he doesn’t want to think about what he’s lost.

Names of deceased relatives:

Elsabe Windvogel (42), Ethan Windvogel(2), Eljade Windvogel (12), Andrea Bewee(21), Nalaya Oelf (5), Niah Oelf (3), Aliyah Oelf (13 months old) and Nalani Oelf (11 month old).

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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