The fires outside George. Picture: BITOU FIRE ASSOCIATION
The fires outside George. Picture: BITOU FIRE ASSOCIATION

Emergency services hope that rains will help them fight a raging blaze in George in the Western Cape.

“I believe rain has been forecast. We had some thunder and rain‚ but only a few drops‚” police spokesperson Malcolm Pojie said. “To be quite honest‚ we are hoping for good rain to assist the firefighters.”

By Monday evening‚ seven people had died in the blaze. It was initially reported that four people — a baby‚ two toddlers and an adult — had died in the wildfires. But as the fires continued into Monday night‚ authorities said three other people had died in the same area. All deaths have been in the Karatara area.

Pojie said a pregnant woman was among those reported dead. An additional 120 Working on Fire (WOF) firefighters from the Free State and Eastern Cape have been deployed to assist with fire suppression and mop-up operations.

Western Cape local government spokesperson James-Brent Styan said weather conditions were improving‚ which was helping firefighting efforts slightly.

The George Municipality and GO GEORGE buses evacuated a total of 204 people from the informal settlements in Blanco‚ Golden Valley‚ Riverlea and Step Aside.

Karatara residents‚ Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University students from Saasveld and the Sub-Acute Hospital of the Bergville Retirement Village were among those 204 people.

From 6pm on Monday‚ residents were moved to the Karatara community hall. More than 200 people were in the hall at the time. Twelve structures were destroyed in the blaze.

Styan said the temperature in George on Monday afternoon hit 40°C. It dropped to 25°C in the evening.

“That kind of change in weather makes a huge difference in conditions. We are kind of hoping that it goes that way. There has also been light rain reported so we are hopeful for that‚” Styan said.