It was just another day in paradise, but on Wednesday afternoon (7th June 2017) chaos erupted in the beautiful town of Knysna after several fires broke out, bringing with it unbelievable destruction. By dawn, it was like a scene from Armageddon. Cries for help could be heard miles away as the town suffered widespread power failures with thousands of residents evacuating their homes. A gale force wind of up to 100km/h fueled the fires, making them fatal and impossible to control.
Many WhatsApp groups popped up with updates and frantic cries for help. “Please can somebody come and help in Knysna Heights. My husband and my father-in-law, which is 71 years old, is still stuck in the house. Please somebody come and help. Please!”, was probably one of the most haunting voice-notes that was distributed on the groups.
The fire’s path of destruction included Brenton-On-Sea, Paradise, Knysna Heights and many more.
Various holiday resorts, including Tonquani Lodge and Knysna Hollow, burned down to the ground.
Two volunteer firefighters lost their lives, many were injured, an elderly man collapsed after suffering a heart attack on Brenton-On-Sea and a family of 3 died while trying to flee their Elandskraal home.
On Thursday morning at first light, the destruction was surreal with buildings still smoldering and the town covered by a thick blanket of smoke. On the sidewalks, residents were seen hugging and cars were driving slowly with their headlights switched on as motorists gasped at the horrific sight.
The community efforts, the humanity, the support and generosity (both locally and nationally) following the inferno cannot be described in words. Big companies donated millions to the coastal town, celebrities and bands raised thousands on social media, while national supermarket chains sent trucks with food for the victims. Kulula Airlines also sponsored flights for 100 firefighters to assist fighting the stubborn blazes, while guest houses and hotels opened their doors to homeless locals.
The true cause of the infernos, which spread right through from Plettenberg Bay to Port Elizabeth, are not yet known, but investigations continue, as well as the monitoring of fire hotspots. Fake news circulated, creating more panic, implying that a network of arsonists caused these fires. Southern Cape Police later dismissed these malicious rumours with an official press release.
Look4it Knysna would like to send its sincere condolences to all residents who lost their homes and loved ones in this disaster. Thank you for following our coverage on social media #KnysnaWillRise