Hundreds battle wildfire raging in South Africa

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A firefighter battles a vegetation fire on the slopes above Simon’s Town, around 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Cape Town, South Africa, on Dec. 19, 2023.

A firefighter battles a vegetation fire on the slopes above Simon’s Town, around 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Cape Town, South Africa, on Dec. 19, 2023.
| Photo Credit: AP

More than 300 firefighters battled a blaze on the slopes of a mountain near Cape Town in South Africa for a second day on December 20 as residents were evacuated from at least one neighbourhood overnight, emergency services said.

Five firefighters were injured and two were taken to the hospital, Cape Town Emergency Services spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said.

The wildfire on the slopes near the seaside town of Simon’s Town, around 40 kilometre south of Cape Town, threatened houses in the pre-dawn hours after it started on Tuesday. That threat was narrowly averted, Mr. Carelse said. He said only one derelict building on the grounds of a nearby South African navy base had been damaged.

Residents were evacuated from the neighbourhood most at threat as a precaution, he said. Five helicopters were scooping up water from the ocean to drop it on the blaze.

The city of Cape Town said the number of firefighters working on the mountain was scaled back to around 200 later on Wednesday and the fire was largely under control, but firefighters were still working to extinguish it. Through the night, the fire lit up large parts of the mountain that overlooks Simon’s Town, a small resort town that hosts South Africa’s flagship naval base.

Wildfires are a regular threat on the mountain slopes around Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula to its south in the hot, dry months from November to April. They become dangerous and unpredictable when they are fanned by strong coastal winds, which city authorities said happened with the Simon’s Town fire.

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