Firefighters battle 26 separate blazes
Latest victim is a three-year-old child
Around 8,000 people have been evacuated from a scenic coastal town in South Africa’s famous Garden Route to escape fast-moving wildfires that have already killed nine people, Western Cape local government spokesman James Brent Styan told CNN.
The ninth victim was confirmed this morning when the charred body of a three-year old child was found in a burnt down building, he said.
Firefighters are currently battling 26 active fires, made worse by a “storm front” that has flooded nearby Cape Town but fanned the flames around the well-heeled seaside town of Knysna and the neighboring Plettenberg Bay.
“We’ve never seen fires of this nature. This is significant. Unprecedented,” Styan said, adding that it was too early to know if lightening was the cause of the blaze.
Schools across the area remained closed with a staggering 69 of them suffering damage. The army has been called in to help with the evacuations.
Floods in Cape Town
Meanwhile along the coast in Cape Town, local authorities are fighting devastating floods caused by the same storm that whipped up the flames along the coast.
According to the South African Weather Service, 37 millimeters of rain fell at Cape Town airport. Other areas recorded as much as 131 millimeters of rain.
The floods follow the region’s worst drought in a century, washing away shanty-town dwellers.
South African Department of Defense Spokesman Brigadier General Masi Mgobhozi said two army helicopters are on standby in Cape Town to help with evacuations from homes if needed. The airport was closed, grounding even the South African President Jacob Zuma who had to cancel an engagement in Durban.