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STORM HAVOC

Fire destroys several Cape Town houses, wild SA weather brings damage and road closures

Fire destroys several Cape Town houses, wild SA weather brings damage and road closures
Properties were destroyed or badly damaged by a fire in Fish Hoek, Cape Town, on 7 April 2024. The South African Weather Service has issued a warning of a rare weather occurrence that is set to disrupt coastal areas along South Africa‘s southwest to southeast coastline. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

As stormy weather hit many parts of the country on Sunday, several properties were destroyed in a fire fanned by Cape gale-force winds while storms caused significant damage in other areas.

A fire fanned by strong winds destroyed several properties and damaged others in Sunny Cove, Fish Hoek, on Sunday, 7 April, as Cape Town authorities braced for severe weather following a level 9 warning.

The city’s Fire and Rescue Service was alerted just after midday of a fire near Main Road. Rescue services had their hands full trying to curb the spread of the fire, which was being fanned by gale-force winds. Rockfalls were also reported on Main Road.

wild sa weather cape town fire

Firefighters damp down the ground in Fish Hoek, Cape Town, after a blaze destroyed houses. (Photo: Pete van der Spek)

Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said the first officer on the scene made a quick assessment and called on several resources.

“We have over 20 firefighting resources on scene with an incident management team set up in the Main Road to coordinate overall strategic decisions.”

Teams from Table Mountain National Park and Volunteer Wildfire Services were also on the scene assisting city firefighters. 

“To maximise our efforts, the fire area was divided into three divisions, each concentrating on saving property and minimising the extent of the damage caused by the fire. Initial estimates are that three formal dwellings have been completely destroyed and four partially damaged. Staff also had to evacuate two females from their home as they collapsed,” Carelse said.

Carelse said all efforts were being made to extinguish the fire.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Taking stock – staggering scale of Western Cape wildfires as fire season continues to rage

wild sa weather cape town fire

Firefighters keep watch after houses were destroyed in Fish Hoek. (Photo: Pete van der Spek)

Councillor Simon Liell-Cock said on Sunday that the cause of the “fire is unknown but the city has already activated forensic teams to investigate. Twenty-six fire vehicles and 100 firefighters have managed to get the fire mostly under control but there is still a risk of flare-ups driven by the gale-force wind.”

Conflicting reports put the number of destroyed properties between three and 12.

The level 9 weather warning was issued by the South African Weather Service (SAWS) for the southern parts of the Cape Winelands and Overberg districts. An intense cut-off low system is moving in over parts of these regions, bringing with it intense downpours and wind.

Avoid risks

Premier Alan Winde, Western Cape MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Anton Bredell and Provincial Disaster Management Centre head Colin Deiner gave an update on Sunday on preparations by the Western Cape government to manage the impact of the severe weather system that had already affected parts of the province.

They said strong winds had already pummelled various areas, fuelling fires, particularly in the Cape Winelands – most of which had been contained on Sunday.

“Our message to residents and visitors to the province is that we know that there is severe weather already impacting us. We have mobilised all of our resources to be on standby to respond where needed and we appeal to you to not take unnecessary risks and listen to the instructions of law enforcement and traffic authorities,” they said.

“Please cooperate and work with us. We also know that inclement weather always impacts the vulnerable in our communities and we are mobilising resources to support them too. As always, our frontline services and disaster management teams are out and responding – thank you for all you have done so far and will do during the storm and in its aftermath.”

Trains will not be running on the Fish Hoek and Stellenbosch lines on Monday because of debris blown on to the tracks and overhead electrical wires (OHTE).

“The risk assessment is that repairs cannot be effected on the OHTE currently due to the potential risks of strong winds versus working at heights. Commuters are advised to make use of their own alternative transport in affected areas until further notice,” Metrorail said.

Cape Winelands

The roof of Mediclinic Stellenbosch was severely damaged, which affected the surgical, paediatric and Nicu wards. No one was injured. 

Dr Gerrit de Villiers, chief operating officer of Mediclinic Southern Africa, said: “Three neonatal patients were transferred to an alternative Mediclinic hospital to ensure uninterrupted care.

“We are working closely with the Western Cape disaster management teams. There [have] been no storm-related patients thus far. Mediclinic thanks the nursing teams, emergency and other support services for their support during this time.” 

Drakenstein Municipality, which falls under the Cape Winelands District Municipality, said it had been implementing comprehensive disaster management actions in response to gale-force winds that had been hitting the area since Saturday afternoon.

The municipality said roads, sports field fences and other infrastructure were damaged. The strong winds have caused power outages and multiple fires across the municipality. 

“The Huguenot Tunnel on the N1 has been closed in both directions due to strong winds. The Du Toitskloof Pass is open; however, trucks are parked on the side of the road. All other local roads are open. While all traffic officials have been deployed, the municipality urges motorists to drive with caution,” the municipality said.

Warnings and road closures

The SAWS also issued level 6 warnings for disruptive rain and severe thunderstorms in inland cities Bloemfontein, Aliwal North, Kimberley and Vryburg. It issued level 4 disruptive rain warnings for much of KwaZulu-Natal and level 2 warnings for parts of the Eastern Cape.

The SAWS said common hazards included flooding and damage to infrastructure, property and small vessels along the coast due to strong winds.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport called on motorists to be extra-vigilant following a serious accident involving two trucks which forced the closure of the N3 over Van Reenen’s Pass on Sunday afternoon. One person was seriously injured and taken to hospital.

On Sunday evening traffic was diverted to alternative routes, such as the N11 linking KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga and the R74 linking KwaZulu-Natal and Free State.

The department appealed to road users to postpone travelling on the N3 between KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng or delay their journeys until the route was cleared. There was a severe traffic backlog.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport said that in a separate accident, “four people died when a Toyota Tazz collided with a Toyota Fortuner on R66 in Mayiwane intersection in Ulundi. The vehicles collided head-on, and the cause of the accident is still a subject of an investigation.” Two people were seriously injured and are being treated in a nearby hospital. 

How to help

The City of Cape Town said it had received numerous calls from people wanting to make donations to those affected by the storms and fires. 

Donations must be directed to humanitarian relief NGOs or dropped at the city’s Disaster Risk Management offices in Goodwood, behind the fire station. Donated items can include non-perishable foodstuff, blankets and toiletries.

Businesses that want to donate building materials to replace roofs that have blown off must contact [email protected]. DM

This story was updated to correct information previously released by the Disaster Management Centre.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kb1066 . says:

    Why are you reporting it happened in Glencairn when it happened in Fish Hoek

    • George 007 says:

      I was wondering the same thing.

      • Peter Holmes says:

        Anything to the extreme west of Fish Hoek per se might, with a bit of licence, reasonably be described as Glencairn. Think of the folks in “upper Plumstead” and Diep River who describe the area as Constantia! Don’t be too hard on the reporter.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    That fire was arson …. Pure and simple!

    • shim smokey says:

      There is a report someone was arrested and charged at SAPS Fish Hoek. However arson legally requires purposeful setting of the fire with malicious intent. Is there evidence of that? Please share.

      • Fred S says:

        Just because there is no evidence doesn’t mean it wasn’t arson

      • Jane Crankshaw says:

        The only “evidence” is the current state of our nation and the political anxiety created by certain parties against good governance particularly in the Western Cape.
        On the other hand…it could just be a pissed and pissed off previously disadvantaged person!

    • Gavin Knox says:

      We all know it’s virtually impossible but if each fire was investigated throughly, 99% would be arson… country wide…

  • Michael Silberbauer says:

    The fire-damaged houses are in Fish Hoek, not Glencairn as stated in the article.

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