Eight killed, thousands displaced as storm lashes South Africa's Cape

A fire fanned by gale force south easterly winds has raged across the south peninsula of Cape Town from Muizenberg to Hout Bay

A four-year-old girl has died and 10,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes after fires swept through a town in South Africa.

In May, the Western Cape province declared a drought disaster after two reservoirs had completely dried up.

At least eight people were killed as winds reached around 100 kilometres per hour and heavy rain and huge waves battered much of the Western Cape, including Cape Town, where the fatalities all occurred.

Colin Deiner, the chief director of the Western Cape's fire service, told Voice of the Cape radio that at least 150 structures had been destroyed.

"Humanitarian support is being co-ordinated for an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 residents of the greater Knysna area, after devastating fires last night", said James-Brent Styan, spokesman for the Western Cape local government ministry.

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"According to a reporter on the scene, it makes for a very eerie image as most of the houses that have burnt down are surrounded by properties that remained untouched by the flames", the Knysna-Plett Herald reported.

In Cape Town, about 830 makeshift homes belonging to poor residents were flooded or had their roofs blown off, according to city authorities. The airport was closed, grounding even the South African President Jacob Zuma who had to cancel an engagement in Durban.

The South African Weather Service said high winds were expected in the region into Thursday.

The South African military said it had placed a helicopter on standby to help with any emergency evacuations in Western Cape province, which includes Cape Town.

MTN added that it is aware that customers in Cape Town and the Eastern Cape are experiencing intermittent service disruptions due to power lines damaged by strong winds.

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