George fire: Southern Cape city faces huge veldfire disaster

working on fire george fires bob adams flickr cc by sa

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

However, some relief is now on the horizon. There are reports of a thunderstorm in the area.

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.

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)

Andy Walker, former editor


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