Pleas to save water and reduce consumption are going out to all residents in Knysna as the region only has approximately 26 days of water left.

The area was declared a disaster zone in May due to water shortages, however recent wildfires which ravaged the region last week have almost depleted remaining water reserves.

In an effort to help remedy the situation, bottled water has been arriving via trucks from many different provinces along with food supplies and blankets.

The municipality said 30 kVa generators are also urgently needed to address water and sewage problems, but with firefighters still on high alert for possible fires, water reserves remain under pressure.

Residents at a loss

Knysna residents say it will take years for them to rebuild their homes and lives.

The deadly blazes left between 3,000 and 4,000 people displaced, and the death of a woman at the weekend has brought the death toll to seven. A further five people also lost their lives in Cape Town after severe winds and storms hit the southern coastline last week.

The woman passed away in Tygerberg Hospital following the passing of her three-year-old daughter last week.

Others who passed away included a 24-year-old Plettenberg Bay volunteer firefighter, Bradley Richards, who died after sustaining burn wounds to 70% of his body, and a family of three.

Sending aid

South Africans from across the country have rallied in support for the fire victims, sending aid and donating funds to help the area begin its recovery process.

When news of the fires broke, non-profit organisation, the Gift of the Givers, had bottled water on its way to the City of Cape Town. The organisation’s founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said the trucks were then immediately diverted to provide relief in Knysna.

Sooliman said aid being provided by companies and fellow South Africans was overwhelming.

In total, the organisation managed to supply the disaster area with 32 tonnes of bottled water, blankets, diapers, food items and tents.

Commercial stores such as Makro, Dischem and Game dispatched more than 10 trucks in total taking hygiene essentials, food supplies, bottled water and more blankets.

Almost R2 million was donated by Woolworths, Outsurance, Old Mutual Insure, Discovery, The Australian High Commission and Oxfam. Airline, Kulula, also offered the organisation free tickets for passenger travel and the transportation of cargo from Cape Town or Johannesburg.

Tallying the financial losses

According to Old Mutual Insure, losses as a result of the fires could cost insurance companies between R3 billion and R4 billion. The company said this exceeds the costs of previous disasters in South Africa.

Hennie Nortje, head of claims at Old Mutual Insure, said this would result in insurance premiums increasing in the southern Cape, especially in areas where flooding risks are higher.