George - Raging wildfires have killed eight people including two toddlers, a baby and a pregnant woman in a farming settlement along South Africa's famed Garden Route, disaster management services said on Monday.
"Two are adult women and six are children of 12-years and younger. All fatalities are recorded at Farleigh near Karatarra," said police spokesman, Malcolm Poje. Poje said they are starting to evacuate residents from Rhenendal.
Firefighters have been battling to quell the blazes that started last week along the southern tourist trail.
"So far we have confirmed that there are seven fatalities of which one is a woman who was eight months pregnant," Colin Deiner, head of Western Cape provincial disaster management services, told AFP.
According to Emergency Medical Services, two toddlers and a baby have also died.
"They were trapped in Farleigh, it's a small settlement in the mountains between George and Knysna," he said. "That's where we found the bodies today."
Deiner said the fires have burnt around 16 600 hectares and had forced a precautionary evacuation of three suburbs, housing more than 1 500 people.
Students from one campus of the Nelson Mandela University, situated on the foot of Outeniqua Mountains in the town of George were also evacuated.
George Municipality and GO GEORGE buses evacuated a total of 204 people from the informal settlements as well as NMMU students from Saasveld. The Sub-Acute Hospital of the Bergville Retirement Village has been moved to Harry Comay TB Hospital.
Outeniqua Pass and Montagu Pass remain closed until further notice as firefighters tackle the deadly blaze along Garden Route. Robinson Pass is open.
"Ground crews have been present in the urban interface to respond to threat to structures and will remain in place at various hotspots throughout the night," said George Municipality and Garden Route District Municipality.
At least 400 firefighters have been deployed to try and contain the blaze in raging in the area.
"The strong winds are our biggest problem at the moment and lightning is also causing more problems," said Deiner.
Residents are urged to keep windows and doors closed as protection against smoke and heat and keep pets indoors where possible. Garden furniture that is flammable should be moved under cover. It is advised to wet thatch roofs and ensure that gutters are clean.
To lend a helping land, financial donations can be made to George Municipality bank account:
Account Number: 01022220981
Branch Code: 632005
SWIFT CODE: ABSAZAJJCPE-SORTCODE 632005
VAT NO: 4630193664
Email: [email protected]
Deposit reference : Fire/Disaster
All donations towards the firefighting efforts must please be delivered to the George Fire Brigade at Mitchell Street. The following are in need: smaller bottles of water (not 5L) for the firefighters, juices, Lip Ice or Vaseline, wet wipes, rehydrate and chocolates or energy bars.
AFP and IOL