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The Second Fire

On Special Assignment Monday at 21:00

It is two months since the most devastating fire in 150 years engulfed the seaside town of Knysna, along the picturesque Garden Route. Raging over a 100km radius, the blaze began on 7 June, 2017 in Sedgefield and spread as far afield a Plettenberg Bay.  Burning relentlessly for several days, it killed seven people, razed 150 shacks in an informal settlement and damaged or destroyed over 1000 homes in Knysna’s affluent suburbs.

In a country where fires have become a regular hazard, particularly among shack-dwellers living on the urban fringes, what distinguishes this natural disaster is the profile of its principal victims: white, middle, or upper class residents – hundreds of whom were uninsured or under-insured – who have lost everything in the inferno. In addition to being homeless, many will be unable to rebuild their homes in the areas where they lived and many of them are now destitute.

The fire has ignited the courage, generosity and resilience of a town determined to rise again.  The countless examples of survival, heroism and hope both within Knysna and from the rest of the country will ultimately dominate its aftermath. But now that the ash has settled, questions are being asked that are stoking flames of frustration and fury.

Was Knysna a tinderbox waiting to explode; could the fires have been prevented; how will the millions in donated goods be dispersed; and will Knysna be able to withstand another natural disaster?

Watch The Second Fire, produced by Hazel Friedman for Special Assignment, broadcast on 7 August, 2017 at 21h00, SABC3.

For more information contact the Special Assignment office: 011 714 6758/64541

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