'Ten houses destroyed' as three fires spark mass evacuations in Overberg

11 January 2019 - 18:00 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE
Flames roar behind a house in Franskraal, near Gansbaai on the Western Cape's Overstrand coast, on Friday January 11 2019.
Flames roar behind a house in Franskraal, near Gansbaai on the Western Cape's Overstrand coast, on Friday January 11 2019.
Image: EMR Private Ambulance

Suburbs were evacuated in the Overberg region of the Western Cape on Friday as three large fires damaged several houses and threatened scores more.

One report said 10 houses had been destroyed in Franskraal, near Gansbaai, as 60km/h winds gusting up to 94km/h fuelled flames that towered over buildings.

Overstrand municipality’s chief fire officer, Lester Smith, confirmed that homes had been gutted in Franskraal and Betty’s Bay.  

"We have three fires currently," said Smith. "In some of the areas there was damage to property. A full assessment will be done then we will confirm how much damage has been caused.

"The main objective at the moment is that we put out the fire. But we can confirm that there was property damage in Franskraal and in Betty’s Bay.”

Smith said residents had been evacuated in a number of areas, including the Hermanus suburbs of Hermanus Heights, Fernkloof and Eastcliff, as the fire came too close to the properties.

In an emergency message to residents, the municipality said: "Due to Franskraal wildfire being out of control and spreading fast, the manager of fire and disaster management has issued an immediate evacuation order for Franskraal area. This message is for your safety, you are to immediately evacuate your home."

A similar evacuation order was issued for the Hemel en Aarde Valley near Hermanus and residents of the Hemel en Aarde Estate were put on standby to evacuate.

A 6pm statement from the joint operations centre set up by Overstrand Municipality and Hermanus Community Policing Forum said some areas were experiencing power cuts.

"In the Franskraal area, the fire is currently out of control and fire management has ordered an evacuation of all residents," said the update.

"In the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, wedding venue Bone Dea and Camphill farm community and school, have been evacuated. 

"In Hermanus, the fire is now coming down the mountain towards the back of cemetery. Some residents of Hermanus Heights, Fernkloof and Eastcliff have already been asked to evacuate.

"The following halls are available for use by those who have been evacuated: Grobbelaar Hall, Moffat Hall in Mount Pleasant, Gansbaai Tourism Hall, Sandbaai Hall and Crassula Hall, Betty’s Bay."

Fire threatens homes in the Overstrand on Friday January 11 2019. Evacuations were ordered in several suburbs.
Fire threatens homes in the Overstrand on Friday January 11 2019. Evacuations were ordered in several suburbs.
Image: EMR Private Ambulance
Flames and smoke consume the landscape in the Overstrand on Friday January 11 2019.
Flames and smoke consume the landscape in the Overstrand on Friday January 11 2019.
Image: EMR Private Ambulance
The R43 between Masakhane and Franskraal was closed on Friday January 11 2019.
The R43 between Masakhane and Franskraal was closed on Friday January 11 2019.
Image: EMR Private Ambulance

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