Cape Town Firefighters Battle Runaway Blazes for Third Day

Runaway mountainside fires raged across Cape Town’s southern peninsula in South Africa for a third day on Tuesday and officials warned they could take several days to extinguish.

While mountain slopes above the suburbs of Noordhoek, Hout Bay and Tokai are ablaze, there is currently no threat to lives or property, the City of Cape Town said in a statement on its website. On Monday, five homes in the Noordhoek area were razed and the luxury Tintswalo lodge at the foot of the picturesque Chapman’s Peak Drive was partially destroyed.

“At this stage it looks like this is a fire that will continue burning for most of this week,” Linton Rensburg, a spokesman for Working on Fire, the national fire management agency, said by phone. Four helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft were being used to drop water on the flames, he said.

The fire broke out at about 2 a.m. on March 1, and fanned by strong winds it rapidly spread along the dry mountainside.

Fifty-two residents of the Noordhoek Manor retirement village were treated for smoke inhalation and one fireman sustained burn wounds and was taken to hospital, the city said. Two churches and a city hall were being used to accommodate people who had been evacuated from more than 30 residences and the San Michelle old-age home, it said.

“The fact that the wind died down considerably yesterday has certainly aided the efforts of fire crews on the ground,” J.P. Smit, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, said in a statement. Firefighters were still contending with scorching temperatures, he said.

A maximum temperature of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) is forecast for Tuesday and 22 degrees on Wednesday, according to the South African Weather Service. Cape Town, South Africa’s second largest city after Johannesburg, is one of the country’s main tourist attractions and home to most of its biggest asset managers, retailers and insurers.

“We praise the bravery and professionalism of all our fire-fighters who are attending to this raging fire to save lives and stop the damage to property and our prestigious natural environment, putting their own lives at risk in the process,” President Jacob Zuma said in a statement on Tuesday.

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