Hell’s Weekend

Hell’s weekend thankfully past

The loss of property in the fires that swept through the Garden Route, Kouga and Nelson Mandela Bay has been devastating and will leave a long lasting hangover. Certainly buildings can be rebuilt or restored and the land will recover and grow anew. Our thoughts though are with those families who mourn the loss of loved one’s lost both in the fires and in the Cape Town storms. Our thoughts and support must also go out to those who have suffered the psychological trauma of facing the destruction first hand, many who have lost everything and who will live the harrowing experience long into the future.

As smoke, pushed up the coast by gale force winds, permeated the air throughout St Francis these past days, memories of the canal fires of 2012 and last year’s Cape St Francis fires were undoubtedly triggered in many who experienced those life threatening events. Then the news on early Saturday morning that Woodridge College was in danger brought even more reality to the seriousness of the situation. Many who live in the greater Kouga area have close ties to Woodridge either having children at school, having had children at the school or even attended it themselves.

Woodridge is very much a part of our lives and the call for help was immediately responded by so many, first to help secure the horses and then in other ways as well as for the call for water to fight the fire. As the raging fires intensified power lines were damaged and firefighters were unable to refill their tanks from hydrants owing to power outages. Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Atholl Trollip’s call for water saw immediate response with the first truck of water arriving within minutes with a hundred more trucks and tankers arriving over the next few hours bringing tens of thousands of litres to try and contain the fire. Sadly some buildings of the college could not be saved but the firefighter’s bravery and efforts certainly saved some buildings from being razed. Thankfully all the children were evacuated safely and whilst they no doubt may have lost possessions, they are all safe if not a little traumatised.

As mentioned in previous posts a disaster management group was set up in St Francis after last year’s fires and certainly the plans the group put in place were tested over these past few days. Whilst there was no direct threat to St Francis, this time around, the St Francis Disaster Volunteer Group sprang into action as the fires in Knysna were threatening and through their Facebook page kept residents up to date with happenings as well as coordinating donations of food, drink and medical supplies. Keeping up to date with the Garden Route fires and later Thornhill, van Stadens and of course Woodridge, were all dealt with accurate information and when the first possible threat to St Francis arose when fires started at Orange Grove and Oyster Bay on Saturday the command centre immediately put the  various Rapid Response teams on standby and ready and waiting should the fires threaten St Francis. Well done to all those who manned the command centre and were ready to direct proceedings should the disaster have extended to St Francis.

The importance of such a Facebook group should not be underestimated and it would truly be sensible for every St Francis resident to join the group to ensure they get first hand and accurate information to any disaster that may befall us in the future. Sadly some Facebook posts on other pages were filled with inaccuracies and even ‘false news’ in some instances. When misinformation is spread it can be a serious hindrance to those actively dealing with a disaster situation.

The SF DVG Facebook group can be found at https://web.facebook.com/DVGSF

More news on Woodridge

[UPDATE] School near Port Elizabeth on fire