P­lett re­si­dents o­pen their he­arts and poc­kets af­ter fi­res

Knysna-Plett Herald - - News -

W­hi­le Bi­tou was spa­red from the re­cent mas­si­ve ru­na­way wild­fi­res, the to­wn’s re­si­dents jum­ped in to as­sist tho­se af­fected.

W­hen the Buf­fels­nek fi­re re­a­ched the R340, lo­cals set up a joint o­pe­ra­ti­on cen­t­re (JOC) in Wit­te­drift as it be­ca­me the ne­a­rest sa­fe point to o­pe­ra­te from.

Ma­ri­us Ven­ter of the JOC said the fi­re thre­a­tened Buf­fels­nek and K­lein Ba­va­ria re­si­dents on Sa­tur­day 3 No­vem­ber, and 73 re­si­dents we­re e­va­cu­a­ted to the Wit­te­drift High S­chool hall, be­fo­re being mo­ved la­ter to the com­mu­ni­ty hall w­he­re the Wit­te­drift NG Church en­su­red t­hey we­re fed.

“The P­lett com­mu­ni­ty’s re­spon­se was o­ver­w­hel­ming. We re­cei­ved e­nough mat­tres­ses, pil­lows, toys, food and e­ver­y­thing t­hey would need,” said Ven­ter.

Ina O­li­vier from the P­let­ten­berg Bay C­ri­me P­re­ven­ti­on As­so­ci­a­ti­on (PBCPA), who i­ni­ti­a­ted relief ef­forts, said she was o­ver­w­hel­med by the “good­ness of the pe­op­le of P­lett”.

She said Chris du P­reez from the church and his con­gre­ga­ti­on jum­ped in wit­hout he­si­ta­ti­on. “He was bu­sy with a fu­ne­ral at the ti­me the call went out, but im­me­di­a­te­ly re­spon­ded.

One of the fu­ne­ral goers went out and boug­ht 200 hot dog rolls and vien­nas so that the pe­op­le had so­mething to eat,” O­li­vier said.

The­re we­re se­ver­al mo­ments w­he­re she had to fig­ht back te­ars, she said, es­pe­ci­al­ly o­ver the ge­n­ero­si­ty of lo­cal child­ren.

“One litt­le boy ap­pro­a­ched me with bags of sand­wi­ches. He said he wan­ted to gi­ve it to the fi­re­fig­h­ters and that he was sor­ry he did not ha­ve e­nough poc­ket mo­ney to en­s­u­re that e­ach packa­ge con­tai­ned a sweet.”

A­not­her litt­le gi­rl of­fe­red to gi­ve a­way her clot­hes to the fi­re victims. “She li­ves in a shack and the to­tal con­tent of her war­dro­be fits in­si­de a box, but she cho­se her best clot­hes to do­na­te.”

Ven­ter ad­ded that the com­mu­ni­ty al­so en­su­red that the fi­re­fig­h­ters we­re fed and hy­dra­ted to keep them going.

P­lett’s as­sis­tan­ce stret­ched beyond Bi­tou’s bor­ders. Ven­ter, who al­ong with se­ver­al ot­her re­si­dents es­ta­blis­hed the P­lett Fi­re Fund af­ter the de­va­sta­ting Ju­ne 2017 fi­res, said he had been o­ver­w­hel­med by the ge­n­ero­si­ty of the com­mu­ni­ty.

In just a week, P­lett lo­cals con­tri­bu­ted R100 000 to relief ef­forts which e­na­bled them to pur­cha­se ne­ces­si­ties for victims and fi­re­fig­h­ters, which we­re dis­tri­bu­ted to af­fected a­re­as in­clu­ding Sed­ge­field, Knys­na and T­sitsi­kam­ma.

“We ha­ve li­ved through last y­e­ar’s fi­re di­sas­ter and know first­hand how hor­ri­fic the im­pact is on tho­se caug­ht in the midd­le. It is be­cau­se of t­his that pe­op­le ha­ve been so ge­ne­rous,” Ven­ter said.

He ad­ded that the gra­te­ful­ness of the re­ci­pients had al­so been tou­ching. “We we­re met with te­ars of gra­ti­tu­de w­her­e­ver we went.

A sand­wich or a blan­ket me­ant the wor­ld to them.”

P­ho­to: Yo­lan­de S­tan­der

See mo­re p­ho­tos at www.ge­or­ge­he­rald.com A joint o­pe­ra­ti­ons cen­t­re (JOC) was set up in Wit­te­drift to as­sist e­va­cu­ees of the Buf­fels­nek bla­ze.

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