Betty’s Bay devastated by blaze
30 homes destroyed, 20 damaged, lives put on hold after worst fire in 50 years
PENSIONERS Johan and Suzette de Koker built their home in Betty’s Bay in 2006. They were out shopping when a neighbour called in a panic.
“She said our garage was burning. We have a wooden deck at the back which caught alight and burnt through the fire door on the garage,” said Johan.
The shocked couple immediately returned home and grabbed what belongings they could.
Johan, 71, told how they then fled to the beach. “We went to the rocks and stayed there. We got very wet, and when someone contacted us to say the fire had spread, I said it had to just burn now.”
Fires and rescue services estimate 30 homes were destroyed and 20 damaged.
Yesterday, residents returned to survey the damage and salvage what little was left of their gutted homes and burnt cars and belongings. Many of their lives have been left in ruins.
Firefighters have been battling veld fires in Betty’s Bay and the surrounding areas since Friday.
Entire houses, garages and vehicles were destroyed in what residents say is similar to a fire that ravaged the area 50 years ago.
Residents were evacuated from the area on Friday before returning yesterday to assess the damage.
Once emergency services allowed people back into the area, the couple went to the nearby town of Kleinmond and stayed at the community centre for the night where they received food.
“The structural damage is so much that even though the whole house didn’t burn down, I would prefer to just to knock it down and start again,” said De Koker.
He said their woes had been exacerbated by opportunistic looters.
“They were already here at 3 this morning,” he said.
Dr Granville Marinus practises in Bellville, where he was when he got the call from his plumber who was doing work on his second home in Betty’s Bay.
“We’d just had a fantastic two-week holiday here and we heard the fire was under control (on Friday), but then things took a turn quickly,” said Marinus.
“We have no access to our front door and two of our couches burnt, along with some other possessions.”
Marinus said his wife was quite emotional about the situation, but he was trying to stay positive despite their difficulties.
“We arrived at around 9 on Friday evening and left at 2.30am back to Bellville before we came back today (Saturday).”
Marinus said he had hired a security guard to watch his house and returned to his home in Bellville yesterday.
Another resident, who preferred to be identified only as Koos, lost almost his entire home – which had also burnt down 50 years ago.
“We’re just finding all my army medals that now also have a different meaning to me,” he said.
“I work in Robertson and come here on the weekends.
“My wife was here and she walked out with the clothes on her back and a couple of hundred rand.”
Environmental Affairs MEC Anton Bredell visited the area yesterday morning.
“We couldn’t use aerial support due to bad wind conditions, and we were combating multiple fires in difficult terrain and under extreme conditions,” he said.
“One member of the public was seriously injured and our thoughts are with him and his family.”
Bredell said efforts would continue in the area until all the fires had been extinguished.
FAMILIES were forced to evacuate their homes as the fire in the Overstrand flared up on Friday. Residents were evacuated from Hermanus, Betty’s Bay and Franskraal in Gansbaai and farms in the region, including the Hemel en Aarde Estate and Camphill.
THE seaside town of Betty’s Bay suffered massive loss and damage to residential property after a fire destroyed 30 homes and damaged 20 others.
HOMES had to be evacuated as the fire in the Overstrand spread and residents were forced to flee. l
GALE Brooker douses smouldering ruins at her friend’s home in Betty’s Bay.
A WOMAN speaks on her phone outside a double-storey wooden house that burned down.