"Wildfires Prompt Evacuations in South African Coastal Towns"

Residents were evacuated from small coastal towns near Cape Town in South Africa as wildfires spread from surrounding mountains and raged out of control for a second day on Tuesday.

Authorities issued a full evacuation order for Pringle Bay, a coastal village popular with holidaymakers located approximately 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Cape Town. Parts of the nearby town of Betty’s Bay had been evacuated on Monday.

While wildfires are relatively common in the mountain ranges around Cape Town and along the South African coast during the summer, it is unusual for entire towns to be evacuated.

The fires, which started on Monday, were fueled by hot, dry weather and strong coastal winds. Annelie Rabie, mayor of the Overstrand municipality that includes the affected towns, stated that up to six wildfires had broken out in the area. Four had been contained or extinguished, but one was advancing towards Pringle Bay.

The Overstrand council reported that a few homes had been destroyed. Although no injuries were reported, authorities issued a ‘code red,’ indicating that the fires posed a serious and immediate threat to people and property.

Approximately 95% of a nearby nature reserve had also been consumed by the fires, according to government reports.

Residents of Pringle Bay were relocating to a nearby town while firefighters worked to bring the remaining fires under control.

Helicopters were deployed to scoop up water from the ocean and drop it on the fires, a common firefighting tactic in the region.

In recent weeks, wildfires have erupted in various parts of South Africa’s Western Cape province, including one on the slopes of the iconic Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town last weekend, which was swiftly contained.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment stated that its firefighting teams were tackling wildfires in four regions of the Western Cape, with one fire burning for nine days.

A significant fire had previously swept across Table Mountain in 2021, causing extensive damage and taking days to extinguish.

The primary causes of these wildfires are often discarded cigarettes, cooking fires, burning debris, and occasionally arson, according to the Western Cape local government. Coastal winds exacerbate the fires and can make them unpredictable.

Piers Potter


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