Soaring heat keeps rescuers on high alert

newspic4b44449a8e74c AFP Lentegeur swimming Pool had approximately 15 000 patrons. Photo: Tracey Adams, Cape Argus

  • Gallery: Heatwave hammers Cape Town

    By Caryn Dolley

    "Seething" temperatures across the province have kept rescuers on high alert and sent residents flocking to beaches and pools to try to beat the heat.

    Although conditions are expected to be cooler today with light rain in some places, rescuers will remain on alert.

    On Tuesday, more than 700 firefighters were on standby, ready to battle any blazes that broke out, and scores were kept busy dousing small fires in the metropole and Winelands.

    In Clanwilliam, the temperature soared above 42°C.

    Letasha Hesqua, a youth group site manager in the Cederberg Wilderness Area, said it was "terribly hot".

    "It's seething. You can barely breathe because the sun beats down from the top and heat is pushed up from the ground," she said.

    Hesqua said despite the sweltering conditions, some hikers had gone out on trails, but had been warned about the heat.

    Van Rhynsdorp Tourism Gateway supervisor Christo Paulsen said the temperature was also hovering around 42°C. In Vredendal, the temperature soared to 44°C. "It's very hot and dry."

    In Oudtshoorn, the temperature peaked at 38°C and is expected to climb to 39°C on Wednesday.

    Some people welcomed the heat, however. Pieter Grobler, owner of the Ice Cream Shop in Oudtshoorn, said he and his team of ice cream sellers on bicycles were making the most of the heat.

    "People enjoy ice cream when it's so hot. We're okay. We have umbrellas over our bicycles and we sit close to the stuff that keeps the ice cream frozen."

    In Blikkiesdorp, the temporary relocation settlement in Delft that comprises rows of corrugated iron cabins, residents felt as if they were "stuck in a desert".

    There are no trees in Blikkiesdorp and so there is no shade, except that cast by the cabins.

    "Can you imagine being stuck in a desert without any hope of cooling down? Well, that's how it is in Blikkiesdorp," a resident, Willy Heyn, said. "I'm sitting in my shorts in a piece of shade and it's still hot. It must be more than 40°C inside."

    Many women were wearing thin nightgowns as it was too hot to wear other clothing.

    "And the children are running around splashing water on each other," Heyn said.

    Disaster Risk Management Centre spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said: "People are flocking to swimming pools and beaches."

    Solomons-Johannes warned people to drink plenty of water and to stay in cool places.

    Although no heat-related cases were reported to the health department, the SPCA attended to a dog in Milnerton.

    "We received a complaint about a Rottweiler being kept on a short chain in the blazing sun without water in Sanddrift," spokeswoman Sarah Scarth said.

    She said the dog's owner had heard the complaint being made and had moved it to another part of the house and given it water.

    An inspector could not get on to the property and had left a warning that the owners should contact the SPCA.

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