Eighteen suburbs in Knysna have had to be evacuated. Photo: Twitter

There had been no calls for a mass evacuation of Knysna where a fire was raging out of control, the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre (WDMC) clarified late on Wednesday night, while light rain has started falling in the embattled area before sunrise on Thursday.

The road between Knysna and George has been reopened after half of Knysna's population were evacuated in Go-George buses.

There were around 26 fires in the Knysna area, Local Government MEC Anton Bredell's spokesperson James-Brent Styan said earlier.

Premier Helen Zille said on the SABC news at 7 on Thursday morning that she is on her way to Knysna to assist in relief efforts.

Although it has died down to an extent, winds of up to 35 knots have made the use of aircraft to tackle the fires difficult. Plettenberg Bay is also under siege from the fire.

“While some areas in the town have already been evacuated, there is currently no call for mass evacuation of the entire Knysna,” a statement from the WCDMC said.

By 11pm on Wednesday night, the areas of Brenton, Belvedere, Welbedacht, Nania, Eastford, Green Pastures and Knysna Heights, among others, had been evacuated.

“The officials on the ground are monitoring the situation and will inform locals timeously if and when additional evacuations become necessary. The officials on site will not hesitate to take every action required to keep citizens safe, the statement said.

“Evacuees are being taken to the Loerie Park area in town. There is shelter in that area. Further arrangements will be made when and if needed.”

Go George public buses were activated to provide mass transport services. At least 15 buses had been deployed to Knysna by 11pm.

The City of Cape on Wednesday night said its staff had been activated and would drive through the night to reach Knysna to assist the town’s firefighters.

The City was deploying 27 firefighters, four bush fire tenders, two skid units, one major pump and a fire tender to the area.

Firefighters from surrounding towns were also deployed, while two fire trucks from the Overberg district were sent to the area. Twelve additional Working on Fire teams are expected in Knysna.

Aerial support had however been ruled out.

“Conditions include strong wind and lots of smoke which makes helicopter use not possible at present.”

The WCDM appealed to the public to rely on “established information channels” and urged people not to spread unconfirmed information as it could lead to panic.

“Whilst there are communications challenges, the town has established alternative communications measures to communicate with citizens.”

African News Agency