Clean-up operations to begin in fire stricken areas

Pretoria – The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) will deploy Community Work Programme volunteers to help with the cleaning up of debris left behind by the devastating fires in Southern Cape and parts of the Eastern Cape.

It is hoped that the clean-up operations will ensure that the affected communities return to their homes.

“COGTA has also made available technicians through the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA), who will assess the damaged infrastructure so that water, sanitation and other services are reconnected, bringing back normalcy to the affected areas,” the department said in a statement on Monday.

The statement was issued after a meeting of the National Joint Operation Committee (NATJOC), which is monitoring the progress of the teams working on the ground.

The raging wildfires swept through the Southern Cape last week, leaving seven people dead, thousands more displaced and nearly 500 structures destroyed in Knysna alone.

The fires near Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape have caused two deaths and destroyed a number of structures. 

The NATJOC meeting noted that the devastating fires in the Knysna area have been brought under control, but communities are urged to remain vigilant as conditions can change.

“Even though the fires might have been contained in the Knysna area, NATJOC urged communities in the Eastern Cape to remain vigilant. Fires have now been reported in the Eastern Cape and the emergency teams are working to extinguish them,” said COGTA spokesperson Legadima Leso.

The communities and road users are urged to avoid roads that are not safe and which might lead to risk of injury or loss of life.

NATJOC also cautioned tourists, who will be attending the Knysna Oyster Festival and the Knysna Marathon, to be alert and cautious when visiting areas that have been negatively affected by storms and fires.

Fires could flare up

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) updated NATJOC about the conditions expected along the Garden Route. Strong winds, which have been fuelling fires in the Knysna area, have subsided, but the SAWS has warned about possible fire flare-ups.

Meanwhile, stakeholders like the South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA), Home Affairs and Basic Education will be raked in to give humanitarian support to the affected communities.

Those who receive social grants will be assisted to replace their lost or damaged SASSA cards.

NATJOC will continue to monitor the situation, working with Provincial Disaster Teams. –

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