Port Elizabeth – Raging wildfires in the Eastern Cape have claimed a second life, that of a 73-year-old man.
Police spokesperson Captain Gerda Swart said that Walter van der Riet died on Saturday night in a Port Elizabeth hospital as a result of burn wounds sustained on a farm in the Thornhill area. His 72-year-old wife, Myrna van der Riet, died on Saturday at 17:00. Police have opened an inquest docket to probe the two deaths.
“The Humansdorp Cluster Commander, Brigadier John Lebok expressed his heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the couple,” said Swart.
Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki said reports of the two deaths were “devastating” to fire and emergency workers.
In a statement on Sunday morning, Mniki said firefighting teams worked throughout the night battling a number of blazes.
Areas that remained a challenge to firefighters included Van Stadens Gorge and Rocklands, he said.
The fires in and around Thornhill have also caused extensive damage to property.
J-Bay Zebra Lodge, a game lodge located off the N2, was gutted on Saturday. In a Facebook post, the lodge’s owners said that all guests could be relocated, and its staff and their family members were safely evacuated.
Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip, meanwhile, has thanked members of the public for their fast reaction to his call for help when fire engines started running out of water at Woodridge School.
The school’s buildings have been badly damaged by fire. In a statement on Saturday, the school said all pupils had safely left the campus.
Trollip put out the call on Saturday night, after fire engines couldn’t refill their tanks from hydrants due to electricity outages.
“When fire engines started running out of water and fire hydrants stopped working yesterday (Saturday) evening, I made a public appeal for mobile water tankers to be brought to the entrance of Woodridge College on the outskirts of the municipality,” said Trollip.
“Within 10 minutes the first truck had arrived and by two hours later over 100 trucks and bakkies had brought tens of thousands of litres of water for use by fire engines,” he said.