Cape Town Counts Cost After Runaway Fires Largely Contained

Fires that ravaged Cape Town’s southern peninsula for four days were brought under control by Thursday after damaging homes and vineyards and destroying swathes of indigenous vegetation, officials in the South African city said.

It “was a good night, no flare-ups,” Helen Zille, premier of the Western Cape province, said on her Twitter account on Thursday. Fire-fighting operations are being scaled back, with crews remaining in some areas to prevent new outbreaks, Jean-Pierre Smith, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, said in a statement on the city’s website.

“The next few days will include mopping-up activities and an assessment of the total damages and cost of the operations,” Smith said. “The city will also be procuring the services of forensic investigators to determine, where possible, the cause of the fires.”

Three homes were destroyed and 10 other properties, including a luxury hotel, were damaged by the blaze, which started in the mountains above Muizenberg on March 1 and spread to other areas including Noordhoek, Lakeside, Hout Bay and Tokai.

About 5,000 hectares (12,355 acres) of indigenous shrubs known as fynbos and other vegetation have been reduced to ash, the worst such disaster since at least 2000 in South Africa’s second-largest city and biggest tourist attraction. While no one has died, one fire fighter is recovering in the hospital from burns to his hands and face, Smith said. Two others sustained minor injuries, while 52 people from an old-age home had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Teams of fire fighters were still monitoring Constantia, where the blaze threatened wine farms on Wednesday, as well as Clovelly and Kalk Bay, Smith said. Most roads that were closed had been fully or partially re-opened, though the scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive remained barred, he said.

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