9 killed, thousands displaced in South African storms

Knysna fire 2

Winter storm unleashes heavy rain and wind on South African city, displacing thousands already coping with drought.

Fanned by gale winds, the fires have swept through Knysna along the scenic Garden Route since Wednesday, destroying hundreds of houses and forcing the evacuation of more than 4,000 people, Knysna Fire Chief Clint Manuel said.

The town mayor, Eleanore Bouw-Spies, described the fires as the worst in decades. "We are thinking the firefighter at this moment".

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Three people were killed in the Eden District municipality, an area popular with tourists east of Cape Town, while four others died in a fire sparked by lightning, said James Brent-Styan, spokesman for the Western Cape regional government.

Knysna municipal spokesperson Fran Kirsten said residents had also been evacuated from Belvedere‚ Brenton-on-Sea and Karatara outside Knysna‚ among other areas.

THE storm that has and is now raging through the Western Cape and has caused havoc along the Garden Route, will fortunately not affect the Eastern Cape. At least eight people were killed. The service provider company indicated it is aware that some of its customers in Cape Town and Eastern Cape are experiencing intermittent service disruptions due to power lines that were damaged by strong winds yesterday.

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On social media, #CapeStorm and #KnysnaFire trended in the country with many sharing photos and video of the storm, as well as urging residents to aid those who have been displaced.

President Jacob Zuma was forced to cancel a speech in the eastern city of Durban Wednesday, because the extreme weather conditions made it impossible for him to fly out of Cape Town, his office said.

The Western Cape remains in dire need of rain, he said, but the storms were definitely not what the province needed as they cause more havoc than solutions.

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