#LowveldLove supports Knysna fire victims

Firefighters in action. Kishugu posted this image onto Facebook.

MBOMBELA – Although fires in the Knysna municipal area have been contained, the town is still in dire need of help. Local firefighters deployed there on Wednesday are expected to remain in the area for another two weeks.

Meanwhile, residents of Mbombela and White River have joined hands with Church Unlimited and are collecting basic necessities and money for those affected.*

Yesterday the Knysna municipality confirmed that the town remained on high alert while flare-ups were brought under control.

Yesterday, pilots from Limpopo and Mpumalanga assisted in firefighting operations east of the town. This was confirmed by Kishugu** spokesman, Lauren Howard.

Lowvelder spoke to one of Working on Fire’s firefighters, Elvinia Jacobs from Riversdal.
“Some of our pilots are currently in the air,” she said yesterday morning.

A Working on Fire firefighter in Knysna.

Jacobs described the experience as upsetting. “Seeing the people affected was the worst. One woman’s story affected me deeply.
“She was crying and felt hopeless as she contemplated how she would tell her husband that they had lost their home in the fires. This brought me to tears,” Jacobs said.

An image placed onto Facebook by Working on Fire.

Various reports of death and destruction resulting from the fires surfaced over the weekend.

One was the story of Leon and Wally Wilsenach, who lived next to a pine forest in the Knysna area. On Friday Wally said their property had miraculously not burned down. Yet on Saturday, he would announce that they had lost their home and everything around it. “My wife, dog and I are saved,” he reported.

Wally said, “I do not know where to go from here. I have progressed beyond the denial phase and am approaching anger. I don’t know where that will take me before I reach acceptance,” he wrote on Facebook.

More than 200 homes in the town burned to the ground, resulting in residents losing all their earthly possessions.

“This is where the real work starts, with those who have lost everything in the fires,” said Church Unlimited’s Lorraine Haig.
Haig and Ettienne Garnett-Bennett represent the church’s #LowveldLove initiative, through which they are seeking to help those affected. “We sent our first truckload of goods there on Friday,” she told Lowvelder.

The death toll stood at seven yesterday. Among the dead was a three-year-old who died on Wednesday. Her mother, who had sustained burn wounds, died in hospital on Saturday.

The NSPCA confirmed that many animals had suffered burn wounds. These animals are being tended to at surrounding SPCAs.
According to the Garden Route National Park’s manager, Paddy Gordon wild animals such as the Knysna elephants, leopards and baboons were not affected by the fires as the Knysna forest did not burn.

Assessments on the damages caused by the fires have not yet been done.

For any contributions to #LowveldLove initiative: Contact Haig on 082-894-0594 or Garnett-Bennet on 082 447 3827, also Sonja Schutte on 082-561-3687.

• Monetary donations can be made to the following bank account:
Church Unlimited
Standard Bank
Cheque account number 032 907 478
Branch code 052852
Reference: Knysna

* Lowvelder has since been informed that various businesses and churches have been collecting items for those in need.

** Kishugu is the implementing agent of Working on Fire, a government-funded, job-creation programme focusing on implementing integrated fire management in South Africa.


Helene Eloff
Court Reporter

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