AS IT HAPPENED: Banks, business contribute millions towards #KnysnaFire

09 Jun 12:45 Fire damage in White Location informal settlement. Roughly five additional homes were destroyed by fires in the area on Friday morning. (James de Villiers, News24)
09 Jun 12:45 Fire damage in White Location informal settlement. Roughly five additional homes were destroyed by fires in the area on Friday morning. (James de Villiers, News24)
09 Jun 12:24

'The clothes on our bodies are the only thing we own' – Knysna resident

The "perfect storm" has hit the Eden district, an official with the Western Cape municipality has said.

"Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong," district community management head Clive Africa told News24 on Thursday evening. 

Winds speeds up to 110km/h were recorded on Wednesday evening, fanning fires that destroyed several hectares of veld and about 300 structures.

The Western Cape government estimated that 10 000 people had been displaced due to the blaze.

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09 Jun 11:41  INFOGRAPHIC: #KnysnaFire by numbers READ MORE...
09 Jun 11:25 Water donations being received by Gift of the Givers. Over 5000 bottles has been recieved from Gauteng. (James de Villiers, News24)
09 Jun 11:18  Heavy smoke throughout the town. (James de Villiers, News24)
09 Jun 11:18 Knysna officials wearing masks to avoid smoke inhalation. (James de Villiers, News24)
09 Jun 10:51

Banks, big business give millions for Knysna fire victims

Two of South Africa's big four banks on Thursday contributed a total R20m towards relief efforts for victims of the devastating fires in the Southern Cape.

FNB and ABSA donated R10m each for disaster relief as raging fires in the Garden Route claimed five lives and gutted homes, businesses, a school and several cars since the fires broke out on Wednesday afternoon. This came as the biggest storm in 30 years to hit the Western Cape earlier on Wednesday also claimed five lives and displaced thousands of people.

The Western Cape Disaster Management Centre described the fires engulfing Knysna and surrounds as one of the most destructive blazes in recent memory. Up to 20 suburbs were hit and more than 10 000 people were evacuated by late Thursday.

ABSA also donated 5 600 tents usually used by cyclists during the Cape Epic mountain bike race, while FNB opened the doors of all of its branches and corporate buildings in the affected areas as drop-off points for public donations of relief supplies.

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09 Jun 10:43

PRESS RELEASE BY WESTERN CAPE GOVERNMENT

The death of a firefighter has been confirmed.

Bradley Richards served as a volunteer firefighter for the local Fire Protection Association and Bitou Fire department and sustained injuries to 70% of his body in the line of duty yesterday.

Another firefighter has been hospitalised with 50% burns as a vast network of emergency response teams continued to tackle the fires in the Eden district around Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.

Anton Bredell, MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning expressed condolences on behalf of the Western Cape Government including the WCDMC to the family and the colleagues and friends of Richards.

"Each fatality is a new tragedy. We do what we can to prevent tragedies like this but the nature of these incidents are serious and often life-threatening. We are thinking of the emergency services personnel still in action, especially following the latest tragedy."

Steps to restore essential services

Urgent steps are being taken to restore essential services to the areas affected by this week’s storm and devastating fire in the Eden District.

Knysna was already one of the Western Cape towns most impacted by the current province-wide water shortages – and supply has now been severely impacted by fire damage, and related power failures.

Engineering teams will be attempting to power the water network with generators – including waste-water systems, to reduce the possibility of pollution.

People are requested to use water carefully and sparingly, to prolong the availability of water in the town. About 3000-4000 people remain displaced in the Eden district.

Some areas that were evacuated have been declared safe and people from those areas have been allowed to return home.

In areas that have NOT been declared safe, people will not be allowed to return till the situation is safe.

Water bombing that commenced late yesterday given improved weather conditions, continued in the area this morning.

The area is on high alert for possible flare-ups of the fire, with Saturday’s weather indicating a high Fire Risk Danger Index.

The public is urged to take great care of potential fire flare-ups – and use great vigilance if entering burnt areas, under the impression that the fires are fully extinguished, which may not be the case.

Electricity

Teams from Eskom and various agencies will be guided by the combined Incident Command Centre, to ensure engineering teams’ safety in the field.

Eskom hopes to restore electricity to the local grid, but the municipal supply network has been severely damaged.

Urgent steps are being taken to identify fallen powerlines or other threats, before the electricity supply can be fully restored.

The public are cautioned to take extreme care in the vicinity of exposed electricity cables or infrastructure – especially in water-logged areas. 

Telecommunication

Telkom partner OpenServe reported that the telephone exchange serving the Knysna area was up-and-running, but the Telkom network was still being hampered by power failures and damaged infrastructure.

Around 300 telephone poles had been burned, and replacements were being sent in from other parts of the country.

Approximately 15km of fibre optic cables were also damaged, as well as copper cabling in the area.

While communications networks are restored, CapeNature has partnered with emergency services to establish full radio communications between teams on the ground – between both the Knysna and Plettenberg Bay areas.

The vast emergency response has been co-ordinated at the Western Cape Disaster Management’s Joint Operations Centre (JOC), at the Tygerberg hospital.

The JOC included representatives from more than two-dozen agencies, which were united into a multi-agency team.

"The effort was massive," said WCDM chief Colin Deiner.

"But it’s not over yet. We urge people to be extremely cautious in the damaged areas, and be aware that the fire could flare up again."

HUMANITARIAN DONATIONS: 

The campaign to collect donated goods is being managed by Community Development Directorate: Social Relief, in the Western Cape Department of Social Development.

All queries about donations should be directed to the Western Cape Disaster Management’s Relief Response Desk - 021 937 6391

09 Jun 09:53

GIFT OF THE GIVERS KNYSNA UPDATE:

The better part of yesterday was spent in logistical, transport and warehousing arrangements to ensure an effective intervention to support the people of Knysna.

The outpouring of public support is a testimony to the unity and humanity of our nation.

When it comes to issues of critical importance ordinary South Africans never fail each other as a nation.

The spirit of Ubuntu, generosity and social consciousness has also been admirably driven by the media houses in the country.

Corporates are showing their mettle and steadily coming forward.

Gift of the Givers is proudly South African and ever grateful to all our people for their generous support be it cash, kind, prayer or just words of encouragement.

It has taken a full 24 hours but our systems are in place now. Ten of our emergency services specialists, ambulances, supply trucks and support personnel are now in Knysna.

Shoprite-Checkers has given us a massive two storey parking facility with security to "warehouse" supplies coming from companies or the public, and has contributed large volumes of items in kind to us.

Gift of the Givers has brought 32 tons of bottled water, blankets, diapers, food items and tents.

Makro and Game have dispatched six trucks carrying tinned food, bottled water, dry rations and blankets to us.

Woolworths has contributed R500 000 in cash and has tons of items in kind for us to collect.

Outsurance has donated R250 000 in cash and has challenged other insurance companies to do something similar. Mutual and Federal have responded with R400 000.

Discovery has given us R375 000 and expect another R200 000 from Vitality members.

The Australian High Commission has offered R250 000 and the world renowned international charity, Oxfam, has given us R60 000.

Kulula has offered free tickets for our personnel and free delivery of our cargo from Cape Town or Johannesburg.

ABSA and many other companies have indicated that contributions will be forthcoming soon.

The support from the ordinary public in cash and kind has been simply awe inspiring.

For further details on how you can contribute:

All cash contributions to Gift of the Givers, Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg, Account number 052137228, Branch Code 057525, ref: Knysna.

Send deposit slip to sooliman@giftofthegivers.org  For details call us toll-free on 0800786911, visit www.giftofthegivers.org or Facebook and Twitter @GiftoftheGivers.

The one specific challenge facing us is to find missing persons.

Missing family members

Thus far families have contacted us indicating that their members are missing.

If anyone is aware of the whereabouts of Laurence McGorian (80), Carol Hendey (90) and Renier Kok (28) and his wife Alicia Horn (21) please inform us so that we could put these families at ease.

We will dedicate our team to trace the whereabouts of these people as one of our essential responsibilities.

Please send any similar request by sms to the cell number below.

09 Jun 09:36

ICYMI:

Volunteer firefighters to lend helping hand in Knysna

A concerned citizen from Gauteng is rallying trained firefighters to be deployed in Knysna to help out with the raging fire that has crippled the town since Wednesday.

Diederick Stopforth woke up on Thursday morning and decided that tweets and Facebook posts won't be enough to help the efforts underway in Knysna, where five people have been left dead and thousands have been displaced.

"We need action," said Stopforth.

"So I called my corporate contacts and a bunch of companies got on board."

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