CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Eight people have been killed and thousands forced from their homes as South Africa’s tourist base Cape Town and surrounding areas were hit by the worst winter storm in 30 years, officials said on Wednesday.
The storm is expected to dump more than two inches (50 mm) of rain in some areas and to trigger waves of up to 12 metres, the South African Weather Service said in warnings.
Millions of people in shanty towns, who have previously had to cope with the region’s worst drought in a century, have been hardest hit, as floods and heavy rain washed away homes built of planks and zinc sheets.
“Eight people have died so far in storm-related incidents and thousands have been displaced,” said James-Brent Styan, spokesman for the Western Cape local government ministry.
He said in one incident a family of four died in a fire caused by lightning. Another died in a building collapse.
Local media reported that strong winds had fanned fires in the countryside east of Cape Town, forcing evacuations including in the popular resort town of Knysna, renowned for its oysters and rugged coastal scenery.
Over two dozen fires were reported in the area, which are home to dense forests, providing plenty of material for the spread of wild fires.
The army, police and other emergency services were on hand to evacuate anyone stranded by the storm and to provide emergency shelter and food.
Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Ed Stoddard, Larry King