Prov­ince to do­nate R75m to aid Knysna

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - TANYA PETERSEN and YOLANDE STANDER

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

PIC­TURE: EWALD STANDER

Sev­eral houses were gut­ted by the re­cent fires in Plet­ten­berg Bay.

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