Province to donate R75m to aid Knysna
THE provincial government has allocated R75 million to assist with rebuilding Knysna after the fires in the town and surrounding areas last week.
Premier Helen Zille said the province’s budget had been re-prioritised to assist Knysna.
Now that the fires are under control and mop-up operations are in full swing, authorities have started counting the costs.
Knysna fire chief Clinton Manual said: “Until late this week there were still many areas deemed unsafe, therefore we could not send in teams to assess the scale of the damage.” Garden Route towns Knysna and Plettenberg Bay were plunged into chaos when about 30 fires raged through the region, burning through more than 20 000 ha. About 700 homes were destroyed and about 5 000 residents fled. Seven residents died. Roads were closed and there was a sporadic loss of telecommunications and electricity.
Zille said 450 houses burnt down in Knysna – 38 RDP houses and 150 shacks.
She said aid for the poor would be a priority.
“In every fire we fix the water, we fix electricity, we give people starter packs to rebuild their homes. This fire in Knysna was the biggest fire we ever had to fight. It took the biggest fighting force from across the country to fight. You must see the devastation there to understand how many services we have got to fix and how much infra- structure we have to fix. People are living in the halls and most of the houses we are obviously not rebuilding, but we have to rebuild the infrastructure.”
She said a number of people lost their jobs because of the guest houses that burnt down.
To rebuild the economy in Knysna, Zille is appealing to people to support the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival next month.“We are hoping everyone will still come to the oyster festival because that is the best way to build up the economy again in Knysna. There are still 4 500 beds that are fine, 2 500 were burnt out, but there are still other places to stay. The hotels are still nice.”
Municipal spokesman Fran Kirsten said now that the fires had been contained and mop-up operations were under way, teams had started going from property to property to gauge the damage.
She said SANParks had been instructed to assist with this process.
She added that it was estimated
Several houses were gutted by the recent fires in Plettenberg Bay.