Picture: THE TIMES
Picture: THE TIMES

Humanitarian assistance‚ environmental management and rebuilding after the Garden Route fires has required a substantial intervention from government‚ due to the scale of the disaster relief that was required.

Marking the one-year anniversary of the fires‚ the Western Cape’s ministry of economic opportunities said on Thursday that the fire had necessitated the deployment of the largest contingent of firefighters and emergency personnel for a single operation in South African history.

The provincial Economic Opportunities Minister Alan Winde said the focus in the first six months after the fire was on short-term interventions to minimise further risks‚ such as preventing landslides on slopes that had been made unstable as a result of burned out vegetation.

"During this period‚ a comprehensive disaster funding request was submitted to national government‚ and approval of some disaster funds is expected soon. The disaster has taught us important lessons‚ particularly about the importance of project-management support in emergencies such as these‚ and the value of partnerships to ensure a full and co-ordinated response."

Some of the projects‚ funding and ongoing support offered by various government departments in the past year‚ according to Winde‚ include:

• R1m in funding made available for trauma counseling and additional social workers‚ who conducted surveys with more than 1‚500 affected people in the wake of the fire.

• Enabling access to government services for residents who needed to replace lost documents, such as IDs and birth certificates and to apply for pensions and UIF.

• R18m spent on installing 135 serviced sites at White Location.

• The Department of Human Settlements is also finalising contracts to restore 45 subsidised houses that were damaged in the fire‚ as well as to construct 55 new houses for qualifying, fire-affected households‚ at a cost of R13m.

• R1.6m was allocated for livestock feed‚ assisting 42 farmers with fodder for their animals.

• An alien removal project‚ funded by private and public funds‚ was initiated to create firebreaks and thereby reduce future fire risk.

• The launch of a hydro-seeding project‚ which seeded 90ha of land and created 45 jobs.