UP IN FLAMES: A house burns in St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape on Sunday. Up to 100 homes were destroyed, the municipality said
UP IN FLAMES: A house burns in St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape on Sunday. Up to 100 homes were destroyed, the municipality said

A DEVASTATING wildfire that destroyed or damaged 76 houses in St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape on Sunday night was extinguished by Monday morning, the Kouga municipality said.

Earlier estimates had put the number of houses affected at more than 100.

“The number of houses razed or damaged by last night’s fire has been put at 76,” municipal spokeswoman Laura-Leigh Randall said. “Mop-up operations are under way. The cause of the fire is unknown at this stage but the South African Police Service forensic unit will be investigating.”

On Sunday evening, pictures posted to social network Twitter by residents and news organisations showed rows of houses ablaze, with flames reaching high into the sky.

Firefighters battled for hours with raging flames fanned by a strong westerly wind. Before midnight, the fire was half-extinguished and no longer an immediate threat to other homes. Firefighters were sent home to sleep at about 4am after the fire was extinguished.

Ten fire engines had been brought to fight the blaze and more were called in from the Nelson Mandela Bay and Kou-Kamma municipalities, Ms Randall said.

"The fire started at about 5.30pm at Royal Wharf developments, which is mainly townhouses," she said.

All residents in the area were asked to evacuate and a temporary joint operations centre was set up at the local police station.

There were no reports of injuries. Most of the houses in the area are holiday homes.

The Democratic Alliance in the province on Monday offered support to the victims of the fire.

“The DA Eastern Cape extends its deepest sympathies for the loss of property and livelihoods in the devastating fire,” provincial leader Athol Trollip said. “The DA is relieved that the community was spared any loss of life. We stand in solidarity with all those who experienced loss in the midst of this tragedy.”

With Sapa