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Runaway fire guts homes in St Francis Bay

18 December 2018 - 15:19 By TimesLIVE
At least four homes have burnt down so far in a fire at St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape.
At least four homes have burnt down so far in a fire at St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape.
Image: 123RF/Thuansak Srilao

The smouldering remains of several homes – some completely gutted – could be seen from the air as firefighters continued to douse a blaze that forced residents to evacuate parts of St Francis Bay on Tuesday.

Aerial footage posted on the St Francis Bay Facebook page showed just the walls standing on some properties which had thatched roofs that had burst into flames.

The Kouga municipality issued an evacuation call as the runaway fire reached some homes in the town, near Port Elizabeth, earlier in the day.

View from above

Posted by Patrick Jonathan Kew on Tuesday, December 18, 2018

“A runaway fire is burning among the houses at Harbour Road, St Francis Bay,” the municipality said in a post on Facebook.

“All residents and holiday-makers in the area, up to Assisi Drive, are advised to evacuate as a matter of urgency. Should you need a safe place to go to, please go to the St Francis municipal offices.”

A municipal spokesperson told Algoa FM News earlier that at least four homes had burnt down.

HeraldLIVE later quoted Kouga municipality speaker Hattingh Bornman as saying that 20 houses had been damaged by the fire.

He said no casualties had been reported.

"Anybody that’s still in the area must evacuate immediately to municipal building across the road from the Caltex garage," he said.

"We have deployed the helicopter that will assist and all available personnel have been asked to attend to the fire and hopefully we will have the fire under control shortly.

"The high winds are making it a bit difficult but firefighters are doing their best to get it under control as soon as possible."

Geanne Darke, of the Disaster Volunteer Group, said the fire had started just before midday, with "very, very strong" wind fanning the flames.

It was not clear how it had started.

She, too, said several houses had already been damaged by 3pm.

"It's much smaller [than the fire in 2012] and much more contained," she said.

Kouga Municipality said in an afternoon update on Facebook that that fire, mostly contained, had been burning between Harbour Road and Assissi Drive.

“It has been contained for now, but whether it stays this way is wind dependent. Fire-fighters are now focusing on extinguishing those properties already burning.

“About 20 properties have thus far been affected although we cannot yet confirm how many structures have actually burnt down completely.

“The Kouga Fire Department is on site. Nelson Mandela Bay has also sent two vehicles and firefighters to assist. We have also requested back-up from the Sarah Baartman district and are still trying to arrange air support.

“We ask that people stay away from the affected area. If you live in the area and are concerned about your safety, please go to the municipal office where an evacuation centre has been set up.”

This story was updated at 5:40pm.