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George fire: Southern Cape city faces huge veldfire disaster
As of Monday afternoon, a large swathe of the mountains surrounding the Southern Cape city of George is engulfed in flames.
The blaze, which started near the settlement of Harold at the crux of last week’s heatwave on Thursday, has grown ever larger due to hot, dry and windy weather.
#GeorgeFires The public is requested to stay clear of the Montagu pass and to avoid stopping on the Outeniqua Pass to watch the fire. Such actions may be high risk to vehicles and passengers. The Montagu Pass remains closed and the Outeniqua Pass is open but is being monitored. pic.twitter.com/NdcSLPzUcX
— Snazo Gulwa (@Snazo_Gulwa) October 25, 2018
It has since spread across the Outeniqua mountains to the north of George, and Karatara to the east.
Videos and pictures of the George fire
Videos and pictures of the fire taken over the weekend, show the extent of the damage.
Here are a few night images of the current George/Herold Fire #SavingLives #ProtectingTheEnvironment #RestoringDignity #WOF_WC #WCVeldFireSeason #FireSeason #Fire #Wildfire pic.twitter.com/ADJoQ4V5dd
— Working on Fire (@wo_fire) October 28, 2018
That backburn looks pashasha in the dark #GeorgeFires #KuWrongKuRough #GeorgeDiaries pic.twitter.com/sP05gQl3Ya
— Sphiwe Hobasi (@MrCow_man) October 28, 2018
Karatara fire viwed from Hoogekraal side #georgefires #georgeburning #gardenroute #gardenroutefires pic.twitter.com/Syz83KhMgP
— Ben Olivier (@threepotatofour) October 28, 2018
The current situation (updated Monday 4pm)
Eyewitness reports from Twitter on Monday noted that George is “covered by smoke and ash”.
“We’re struggling to breathe, visibility is very poor,” Eden FM writer Snazo Gulwa pens on the social network.
George is in a bad state😔This whole town is covered by smoke and ash from the fire on the mountain🤢We’re struggling to breathe, visibility is very poor. The outeniqua Pass remains closed for traffic. Motorists are advised to proceed with caution. #GeorgeFires pic.twitter.com/HTj4fnt1Ps
— Snazo Gulwa (@Snazo_Gulwa) October 29, 2018
A number of arterial routes have been closed to traffic, particularly the N2 between Oudtshoorn and George and the Montagu Pass. Both routes remain closed at the time of writing.
Southern Cape – #GeorgeFires N12 Outeniqua Pass: ROAD CLOSED between George and Oudtshoorn pic.twitter.com/FxogoCzfRj
— Rob Beezy (@TrafficSA) October 29, 2018
While there are firefighters on scene, helicopters are unable to fly due to strong winds.
“Visibility is poor and wind is bad so helicopters and planes cannot fly. Situation remains serious, due to prevailing conditions. Around 300 firefighters on the fireline,” tweeted James Styan, the Western Cape Minister of Local Government and Environmental Affairs, on Monday afternoon.
Update as at 11h30
Visibility is poor and wind is bad so helicopters and planes cannot fly. Situation remains serious, due to prevailing conditions. Around 300 firefighters on the fireline.
Call 112 in case of emergency. https://t.co/xSX8k2OUME
— James Styan (@jamesstyan) October 29, 2018
However, some relief is now on the horizon. There are reports of a thunderstorm in the area.
14h47 Thunder and lightning now observed and active in the Mossel Bay area. Please be alert and go indoors. @Mosselbay @George #thunderstorm @SAWeatherServic
— Garden Route Disaster and Weather Info Service (@gardenroute1) October 29, 2018
SA Weather Service issues weather warning
The South African Weather Service has also issued a warning to all in the area of gale force winds of up to 75km/h tonight.
WATCH: 29 October 2018- Gale force W to SW winds of 65-75km/h is expected along the coast between Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay (Western Cape) tonight (Monday) into Tuesday morning.
— SA Weather Service (@SAWeatherServic) October 29, 2018
A cold front is expected to make landfall in the Western Cape tonight, but it’s not clear if it will have an effect on the fires.
The ambient temperature in the city is 36°C as of Monday at 3pm.
Knysna fires of 2017
The Southern Cape is no stranger to wild fires this decade.
In June 2017, much of the area surrounding Knysna was engulfed in a blaze which destroyed homes and businesses in the town.
This is a developing story and will be updated as new information is released…
Feature image: Working On Fire helicopter by Bob Adams via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)