WATCH: Bezweni Lodge burnt down in devastating Somerset West fires

2017-01-04 09:40 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - The beautiful Bezweni Lodge in Sir Lowry’s Pass Village in Somerset West has burnt down on Tuesday afternoon, 3 January, as wildfires raged across the region in at least eight different locations.

The 4-star lodge posted to its Facebook page saying, “To all our Bezweni Lodge guests, we had a big fire today at the lodge, lodge has burned please keep us in your prayers…”.

The lodge manager Peter Weideman said on his personal Facebook page that they are not sure of the extent of the damages at this stage, and that everyone is okay and no-one was harmed. 

One guest, Lindsay Visser De Klerk, who departed the lodge only hours before the devastating fire commented on Facebook saying, "So, so sad for beautiful Bezweni Lodge. When we left there this morning we never dreamed this would happen but I'm so grateful that Frank and Peter are safe."

Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy says clean-up efforts will begin once the fire has been contained, with efforts to ensure a quick and complete recovery and get people working again so we can welcome visitors back".

"Visitor safety is of paramount importance. We applaud the efforts made by local firefighting agencies and other organisations in bringing this situation under control,"says Duminy.

The City is appealing to anyone wishing to contribute to avoid affected areas and instead drop donations of water and cool drinks (individual sizes if possible), snack bars and eye drops at Strand Fire Department - or at the Somerset West Neighbourhood Watch Communication Centre at 153 Main Road.

 "Visitors should check local social media channels and news outlets for updates on the fires when planning outings and day trips," says Duminy.

Photos from Tuesday show the property's thatched roof and parts of the structure of the property aflame. On Wednesday, Weideman posted a video of what was left of the lodge... 

This is what the lodge looked like before: 

Areas in Somerset West were evacuated on Tuesday night after the fires damaged several homes in the area. See News24's coverage here

The conditions were made worse by particularly strong winds blowing in the Western Cape. On Wednesday, fires continued emergency crew battled to save other properties in the area. 

SEE: Weather Update: Heavy rain for part of SA as Western Cape battles gale force winds

Thick smoke from fires raging in the Somerset West area still covered the Cape Peninsula on Wednesday morning while helicopters and fixed-wing planes were back on the scene in the early morning hours, while firefighters were on duty overnight to douse the flames on the upper slopes of the mountain in Somerset West. 

SEE: Table Mountain rescue spike: Keep safe this summer

This is what the fire looked like from Gordon's Bay side: 

Veldfire 101

If you find yourself within a nature reserve or are travelling during a high fire danger warning - there are ways in which you can prevent fires from occurring. 

The Western Cape Government issued a statement in 2015, following the devastating fires that occurred in the season before, saying 'Fire is everyone's fight' and being properly prepared could save your life and South Africa's precious land.

Note these three rules-of-thumb to consult to help prevent wildfires: 

If you find yourself in an open recreational space on an exceptionally hot windy day - it is never a good idea to start a fire
If you are unsure about the conditions - speak to your local fire department first 

In the event of high fire danger warnings - outside fires are prohibited

ALSO SEE: Table Mountain rescue spike: Keep safe this summer

Braai fire safety

When you are braaiing keep children away from the fire area and do not let them play with fire making objects
Do not braai near trees, bushes or wild vegetation
When you are out camping, make sure to always use designated braai and fire facilities.
Never leave a fire unattended.
District fire services should be notified at the first sign of a wildfire emergency. 

READ: Be fire smart this summer season

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