Huge veld fire crosses border into East Cape

BIG THREAT: The extent of the massive veld fire that has been raging in the Southern Cape is evident in this view taken from a plane Picture: Supplied
BIG THREAT: The extent of the massive veld fire that has been raging in the Southern Cape
is evident in this view taken from a plane
Picture: Supplied

Firefighters and rescue workers have been battling a massive veld blaze in the Southern Cape that has now entered its sixth day and destroyed thousands of hectares of farmland and tree plantations.

Authorities said yesterday the fire, which started on a private farm near the Keurbooms River, had jumped the boundary from the Western Cape into the Eastern Cape.

By late morning, nine people had been evacuated from two farms by helicopter while several decided to remain and fight the blaze.

Authorities were discussing evacuation possibilities for other farms which were in the path of the fire yesterday afternoon.

The fire has destroyed between 40 000ha and 50 000ha of vegetation since Saturday.

The fire is believed to have been started as a controlled burn on a private farm which, due to berg wind conditions, became a runaway fire.

Yesterday, a spotter plane was deployed to monitor the area while Wo r k i n g on Fire launched its helicopter, with a private helicopter, to water-bomb the blaze.

As the flames moved across farms, infrastructure such as fences and telephone and electricity lines, was destroyed.

Firefighters on the ground were forced to use radio communication as there was no phone reception as a result of the infrastructure damage.

Bitou Municipality fire chief Hedley Venter said firefighters had spent the day battling very hot weather and the fire.

The R340 pass connecting Keurbooms and Uniondale was closed yesterday afternoon because of thick smoke.

Firefighters from the George, Bitou and Eden municipalities as well asWorking on Fire, the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association, SA National Parks and Cape Nature officials were deployed.

This fire comes only three weeks after raging veld fires in the George andWilderness area caused an estimated R40-million worth of damage.

SANParks spokeswoman Nandi Mgwadlamba said the fire was heading towards the perimeter of the Garden Route National Park closest to the Keurbooms River yesterday afternoon.

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