Cape beaches burst at the seams
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Cape Town - Beaches and swimming pools were packed to capacity - with sunseekers breaking all records set over the last 10 years.
With the New Year’s Day mercury nudging the 30°C mark, emergency services personnel were kept on their toes, grappling with crises ranging from drama at beaches to runaway fires and gridlocked roads.
Temperatures are set to remain high all week and beaches are likely to stay crowded.
Authorities have sounded a warning to motorists that worse is yet to come, with traffic volumes on major routes around the province expected to pick up dramatically from tomorrow.
Emergency and rescue personnel as well as police are expected to remain on high alert over the next few weeks, although new year festivities in the province were calm.
Yesterday, a person drowned at Milnerton, there was an unconfirmed report of a 16-year-old drowning at Strand, while a 10-year-old boy from Gugulethu went missing in the sea off Clifton Beach.
NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said four people were found to be in difficulty in the water at Lagoon Beach, Milnerton yesterday.
Three were rescued, one of whom needed to be hospitalised.
The body of a fourth person was retrieved.
Paramedics rescued a 30-year-old man from the water in Hout Bay yesterday.
He was taken to a nearby hospital.
Lambinon said the 10-year-old boy missing at Clifton may have been dragged out to sea after being caught in a rip current.
A search for him continued until late yesterday.
The city warned this week that this had been one of the busiest seasons at pools and beaches in a decade, with thousands of holidaymakers flocking to the coast and swimming facilities, even on off-peak days.
In an attempt to prevent complete gridlock at Sea Point, Bantry Bay, Clifton and Camps Bay, the city urged revellers to park in the central business district and to take public transport to beaches yesterday.
Members of the police’s air wing, dog and mounted units were on Friday stationed in several popular seaside areas.
While crowds were being monitored along the coast, firefighters in the Overstrand were desperately trying to extinguish a blaze that broke out on the mountains above Hermanus shortly after midnight yesterday, forcing the evacuation of a retirement village and a residential estate.
The blaze, which some residents suspect was caused by a flare or fireworks, had not been totally extinguished by yesterday afternoon.
Geoff Spires, managing agent of Kidbrooke Place Retirement Village, said about 30 frailcare residents, some bedridden, had to be evacuated after 1am on New Year’s Day.
“The wind direction was one of the most important things. Luckily it was blowing away from us. It wasn’t so much the fire, it was the smoke. We made a decision to evacuate those in frail care, and took them down to a local church,” he said.
Four others were booked into hospital overnight.
Those evacuated returned to the retirement village yesterday at around 10am, while teams of firefighters were still battling flames.
Lester Smith, chief fire officer for the Overstrand, said the blaze had spread dangerously close to some homes in the residential estate in the early hours of yesterday.
“It came within about 100m of the first houses. We managed to stop it just in time.”
Twenty professional firefighters, volunteers from two organisations and a helicopter had helped to stop the spread of the fire.
Smith said one firefighter had suffered from dehydration.
Three other blazes were reported in the Overstrand area yesterday, including one at Mount Pleasant which destroyed two shacks and damaged two vehicles.
Firefighters in the city were also on high alert yesterday, but fire and rescue services spokesman Theo Layne said no major blazes were reported.
Provincial traffic chief Kenny Africa said the situation on the roads had been fairly calm over new year, in spite of two people dying in separate incidents.
At 2am yesterday a pedestrian was knocked over and died at the scene on the R300 near the Jakes Gerwel and Stock Road off-ramps.
Four hours later, on the M3 near Tokai Road, a medical student lost control of her car, which smashed into a tree. She died on the scene.
Africa said traffic officers had been dispersed along several roads and stretches over new year, but that roadblocks would resume from this evening.
The December road death toll for the Western Cape shows that at least 22 more people died than the 120 fatalities recorded for the same period in 2014.