IN PICTURES | Horrific aftermath of Overstrand's black Friday

12 January 2019 - 14:20 By Dave Chambers
Lesley Prochazka, 81, on Saturday January 12 2019 in the remains of a home in Betty's Bay owned by her family since 1948.
Lesley Prochazka, 81, on Saturday January 12 2019 in the remains of a home in Betty's Bay owned by her family since 1948.
Image: Esa Alexander

A 71-year-old man was seriously injured while evacuating his Betty’s Bay home during a series of wildfires that ravaged the Overberg coast in the Western Cape, it emerged on Saturday.

A statement from a joint operations centre in Hermanus said the thoughts of firefighters were with the man and his family.

They were among scores of people ordered to evacuate their homes on Friday afternoon  as four fires were propelled across 13,000ha by a north-west wind gusting at almost 100km/h.

One of 31 properties in Betty's Bay destroyed by a fire that swept through the coastal village on Friday January 11 2019.
One of 31 properties in Betty's Bay destroyed by a fire that swept through the coastal village on Friday January 11 2019.
Image: Esa Alexander

Saturday’s update said the fires had been partly contained but there were several high-risk areas in which neighbourhoods, farms and conservation areas were under threat.

“Crews will remain on the scene to ensure that the fire is completely extinguished,” said teh statement. Multiple hotspots had been reported and more aerial support was on its way.

“From the moment the first flare-up was reported, fire and support services from all over the Western Cape, led by the Western Cape disaster management centre, descended on the Overstrand,” said the statement.

A burnt-out car in Betty's Bay on Saturday January 12 2019.
A burnt-out car in Betty's Bay on Saturday January 12 2019.
Image: Esa Alexander

“The communities of Overstrand have been severely tested. The gale-force wind prevented all aerial support options. A power outage added to the challenge and the communication networks failed.”

In Betty’s Bay, where 102 firefighters were deployed, the fire reached homes on both sides of the R44, the main coast road.

“A preliminary structural assessment reports 31 residential properties destroyed and 28 damaged. Firefighting and mop-up operations are in progress and will continue for several days. Still-active fire lines pose risks for this area.”

Dr Francois Greeff with the remains of his Rolls Royce and his house in Betty's Bay on Saturday January 12 2019.
Dr Francois Greeff with the remains of his Rolls Royce and his house in Betty's Bay on Saturday January 12 2019.
Image: Esa Alexander

In Karwyderskraal, in the mountains behind Hermanus, fire breaks failed to arrest the flames and damage was reported to buildings, water pipelines, fences and Eskom pylons.

“The Karwyderskraal fire continues burning, and there is still a risk of flare-ups. Ground crews were deployed early this morning. Active fire-fighting will continue on these fire lines, where there is still risk for the area.”

The Karwyderskraal fire crossed the Hemel-en-Aarde valley and reached the mountain above Hermanus, Northcliff and Hermanus Heights. “A fierce battle ensured and proud firefighters reported no structures were lost in Hermanus Heights. The head was extinguished above Fernkloof.”

Father John Keough with the remains of Our Lady of Montserrat Catholic Church in Betty's Bay on Saturday January 12 2019.
Father John Keough with the remains of Our Lady of Montserrat Catholic Church in Betty's Bay on Saturday January 12 2019.
Image: Esa Alexander

Active firefighting and mopping-up was continuing, and the main risks were an easterly spread into Fernkloof and a westerly spread in the direction of Glen Fruin.

In Franskraal, near Gansbaai, the fire spread from Masakhane over the R43 into the village centre. “Aerial resources were deployed but stood down due to unsafe conditions and low cloud cover.

“Furious efforts to protect homes and evacuations ensued. This was, and will be for a long time, a very difficult time for this community. A mammoth effort by Overstrand Municipality, Overberg District, neighbourhood watch, local farmers and the local community limited damages to two structures damaged and five wooden structures destroyed.”

The Franskraal fire was still burning in the mountains and aerial firefighting had begun.

Thirty-one homes were destroyed and 28 damaged by three wildfires that raged across the Overberg in the Western Cape on Friday January 11 2019.


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