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PICS: Betty's Bay residents recall 'panic' as fire inched closer to homes

15 January 2019 9:02 AM
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PICS: Betty's Bay residents recall 'panic' as fire inched closer to homes

Residents in Betty's Bay are picking up the pieces after a fire raged through parts of the small town and other parts of the Overstrand area in the Western Cape over the last two weeks.

The Overstrand fires have been raging since New Year's Day. To date, 31 homes have been destroyed and 28 were damaged. The fires have been contained and pose no danger to people or property.

Residents are also counting the costs of the damage, with most damaged houses now left abandoned.

Couple Graham and Carol Clark were among the luckier residents as only their outside garage, which had several windows broken, was damaged.

Their house faces the mountain and Graham says the fire was so bad they couldn't see the mountain.

"That's how thick the fire was," he recalls. It was last week Friday when they, along with their two tenants and their dogs, had to evacuate their home.

"We noticed that the fire had moved down from the mountain, over the road and was now near our home and we packed up whatever we could and immediately drove away," says Carol.

"There was panic on the streets with traffic leading out [of Betty's Bay] towards safety at Kleinmond," she says. Kleinmond is a town approximately 6km away.

Just across from their house another couple was taking stock of the extent of damage to their home.

Johan and Suzette de Koker have been living on their property in the heart of Betty's Bay since 2006 when they built, painted and furnished the house from scratch.

"We had hired someone to paint it but then decided we wanted to do it. The walls inside, I painted," says a visibly heartbroken Johan.

The man accused of starting the fire, Shelton April, appeared briefly in the Caledon Magistrate's Court on Monday on charges of contravening the National Environmental Management Act.

He is accused of igniting the blaze after setting off a flare in the area on New Year's Day.

He will appear again in court later this month for a bail hearing and could face up to 20 years in prison.


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