Rain saves the day for burning Garden Route
The burning Garden Route gave a collective sigh of relief on Wednesday after overnight rain came to its rescue.
By morning, fires in the Tsitsikamma region were under control, police spokesperson Sergeant Majola Nkohli said.
“Almost 30,000ha of land was damaged over a 70km stretch,” he said.
“Assessments are still under way and all evacuated people have been sent back to their homes.
“No-one was injured and no structures damaged [there].”
The Tsitsikamma toll plaza and surrounding roads – closed for most of Tuesday – have since been reopened.
Nkohli said that while Storms River residential areas were out of harm’s way, several fires on the mountain remained a concern.
“Weather permitting, helicopters will be used to assist with the fires in the mountains.
“Mop-up and damping down operations are under way,” he said.
Garden Route National Park spokesperson Nandi Mgwadlamba said about 5,000 hectares of fynbos in the national park was destroyed.
Damage assessments were still under way.
While the Outeniqua hiking trail was closed, Mgwadlamba said, the Otter Trail was being assessed daily to decide on the effects of smoke inhalation on hikers.
“Evacuations were conducted at Storms River Village, close to the Tsitsikamma section of the park.
“Community members were evacuated to the SANParks sports field at Storms River Village,” she said.
“Visitors at the Storms River rest camp in the Tsitsikamma were completely safe from the wild fires, but no visitors were allowed to enter or leave the park as all access roads were affected by the fires.”
George municipal spokesperson Chantel Edwards-Klose said the Outeniqua Pass was still being assessed by the district roads engineer for the possibility of landslides and soil erosion.
“Motorists on the Outeniqua Pass are warned to proceed with caution and be aware of the possibility of falling rocks and trees following fires and gale-[force] winds,” she said.
“In the immediate George [area], there are teams continuing with mopping up of fire lines.
“There will be periodic flare-ups and continuous smouldering fires creating smoke.”
Edwards-Klose said power had been restored in all parts of George.
Western Cape local government MEC Anton Bredell said all roads were open.
He said the fire on the De Vlugt road towards Prince Alfred’s Pass was also considered critical.
Fires in the Karatara and Rheenendal areas – evacuated earlier this week – were still burning, but contained.
“The rain that fell in the Garden Route area [on Tuesday] night brought much needed relief,” SANParks said.