Up to 4,000 displaced in Knysna

Knysna fires

File: Many houses in the Knysna Heights area were destroyed in the fires on June 09, 2017 in the Knysna, South Africa.

Gallo Images / Rapport

KNYSNA – Up to 4,000 people were still displaced in Knysna as a result of widespread fires that broke out last week.

More than 500 formal and informal homes were destroyed.

Many people sought refuge with family and friends, while 67 were still staying in community halls in the Western Cape town.

Little Lilly Cornah was searching for her missing cat, while her parents, Jonty and Zoe, rummaged through the ruins of their home and business.

It was Jonty's 36th birthday, and instead of having a festive time at his planned party he spent the night fighting off the flames.

It was a night he said he will never forget -- forced to lie in a stream of water to prevent being burnt to death.

READ: UPDATE: #KnysnaFires contained

“We were lying in the water, wet towel over your face, just holding it up, a bit of fresh air to breathe. It was a panic situation," said Jonty.

"I knew I just had to stay calm in the situation. I told them, 'We are not going to die, we are going to win. We can't die we have too much to live for'.” 

The family relied on the generosity of others as they struggled to come to terms with their loss.

Across town, hundreds of others queued for donations, something Thandeka Yawa depended on to survive.

She had been living in White Location for 20 years.

READ: Knysna toddler dies on birthday

She fled with her four children and two dogs as the flames licked her property.

“This was painful. We were screaming. We couldn't save our valuables," she said.

"We [were] left with nothing -- all I rushed for was to save my children's lives.” 

Yawa, like many others, were looking to the government for help.

 

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