Mon, 19 Aug 2019

The Garden Route fires that have devastated parts of the Southern Cape have mostly subsided and firefighting teams are now conducting mop-up operations, a statement said on Wednesday evening.

According to the Garden Route District Municipality's joint operations centre (JOC), as of Thursday morning, final mop-up operations were underway in the Buffelsnek and Kransbos areas.

Seven people, including a pregnant woman, died as a result of the fires.

"Intensive" mop-up operations took place in the Diepwalle area on Wednesday, the JOC said in a statement. The area is being monitored.

Mop-up operations are also ongoing in the Geelhoutboom and Jonkersberg regions, with the Groenkloof area being monitored. Patrols are also underway and resources will now be focused on extinguishing any smoke pockets, the JOC said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the JOC said 90% of the fires had been contained, with some still smouldering at Diepwalle, Kranbos and Jonkersberg.

Teams were dispatched to monitor the situation.

Four firefighting teams from Cape Town were sent home as that City enters its fire season, while eight teams from the Free State will stay on until next week to assist with mop-up operations, the municipality said. Patrols along the passes to Karatara are also ongoing.

According to Cape Talk on Sunday, the fires have now destroyed close to 90 000 hectares in the Mosselbay, Jonkersberg and Outeniqua areas - about four times the size of the 2017 Knysna fires.

Local authorities have also been assisted by the South African National Defence Force. A Black Hawk chopper was brought in over the weekend to help firefighters, who were still battling flames.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille told the radio station that some precautionary evacuations were still taking place.

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