DEVASTATING FIRES BROUGHT UNDER CONTROL IN SOUTH AFRICAN TOURIST RESORT

CAPE TOWN, Wildfires have been brought under control in Knysna, a tourist resort in southern South Africa, authorities said on Sunday.

The fires, which broke out on Tuesday, have claimed seven lives, including a woman who died of burns in hospital on Sunday, the Knysna Fire Department said.

Thanks to more favourable weather conditions and the hard work by hundreds of firefighters, the fires finally have been brought under control, Fire Chief Reinard Geldenhuys said.

He said about 300 firefighters, assisted by helicopters, are still working on the ground to prevent possible flare-ups.

The fires have destroyed at least 439 properties and displaced more than 10,000 people.

Knysna was declared a disaster area on Friday after 20 suburbs and informal settlements were devastated by the most destructive fires in recent history.

The fires spread to nearby towns of Plettenberg Bay, Eden District, Sedgefield and Brenton on Sea, all tourist resorts along the well-known Garden Route.

The fires also affected a large number of international tourists.

Many international tourists cancelled their booking to the area due to the fires, said a Knysna hotel manager, who only gave her name as Chantel.

Chantel told Xinhua that some cottages at Brenton on Sea Cottages, a self-catering and luxury accommodation where she is working, had been burned to ashes, and telecommunication and electricity were cut off.

"It will take time to rebuild the place," she said, adding that they were determined to turn the area into a better place.

The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association has established an operations centre for medical emergencies, reporting missing people, lost passports and repatriation requests. The centre also offers trauma counselling services.

"Once the situation has been stabilised and these urgent priorities have been addressed, we will need to assess the full impact on tourism facilities and attractions in the region, as tourism is a key contributor to our economy," Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa said.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK