Firefighter severely burnt in Knysna fire

A section of N2 between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay has been closed to traffic as the fire is burning on both sides of the road

8 dead as storm brings rain to drought-hit Cape Town

Fanned by gale winds, the fires have swept through Knysna along the scenic Garden Route since Wednesday, destroying hundreds of houses and forcing the evacuation of more than 4,000 people, Knysna Fire Chief Clint Manuel said.

President Jacob Zuma on Thursday delivered a message of support and offered condolences to those affected by the storm and fires in the Western Cape.

At least four people have been killed as wildfires continued to rage in Knysna, about 600 kilometers east of Cape Town, authorities said on Thursday.

The storm also forced President Jacob Zuma, who was in the city, to cancel a scheduled speech at an global media conference in Durban, a city on the Indian Ocean coastline, his office said.

"All our objectives at the moment are focused on dealing with the fires in the Southern Cape", said Colin Deiner of the Western Cape Disaster Management.

Local officials are now considering calling on the air force to help extinguish the blazes.

Three people died in fires at Rheenendal, a village outside Knysna, while the body of a three-year-old was found in the town's Welbedacht area. She spent the night in Knysna to coordinate the response of emergency services to the crisis.

"These are the worst fires I have seen in the 45 years I've lived in Knysna‚" said the town's mayor‚ Eleanore Bouw-Spies.

"The fire in Knysna is the largest and most destructive fire in a built-up area in the Western Cape in recent memory, with thousands displaced".

Residents of the city's many shanty towns have been worst hit as their fragile homes have been unable to resist the strong winds and heavy rain.

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