Published: June 8,2017
Storms that swept into Cape Town, South Africa have killed at least nine people and unleashed winds that fanned fires, forcing evacuations of about 10,000, authorities say.
Local media reported Thursday that the military plans to help emergency responders in Knysna, which lies on the Garden Route, a popular tourist destination on the southern coast of South Africa.
Strong winds from a storm that hit the coast Wednesday fanned multiple blazes, which destroyed dozens of homes and also damaged an evacuated hospital and a school.
Four of the deaths occurred in a fire caused by lightning, and one other person died when a home collapsed, local media reported. Three others died in a separate fire.
Clinton Manuel, Knysna's fire chief, said his teams were struggling to contain numerous fires.
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"This wind is blowing very, very strong, causing the fire to spread extremely rapidly," Manuel said, according to the African News Agency.
The town mayor, Eleanore Bouw-Spies, described the fires as the worst in decades.
Cape Town workers said they had taken measures to protect some poor residents, who live in sprawling neighborhoods of makeshift homes. However, hundreds of homes were flooded or damaged, authorities said.
The storm forced President Jacob Zuma, who was in Cape Town, to cancel a speech to an international media conference in Durban, a city on the Indian Ocean coastline, his office said. He was due to address an annual congress organized by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.
The South African military said it had placed a helicopter on standby to help with any emergency evacuations in Western Cape province, which includes Cape Town.
While the storm provided some drought relief, officials said sustained rainfall over several years is needed in a city whose reservoirs are at low levels.
Cape Town recently announced restrictions on water use. On Wednesday, authorities urged residents to capture rain from the storm in containers for flushing toilets and other needs.
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