An intense heat wave and gale-force winds in the Western Cape region of South Africa have resulted in devastating runaway fires, threatening the towns of George and Karatara in the Southern Cape area since October 24. An Amateur Radio Joint Operational Center (JOC) was established on October 29, and radio amateurs were put on standby when parts of George experienced telephone and power outages in the Knysna area. Several new fires were also reported due to lightning.
At one point, those living in the affected areas were ordered to prepare for evacuation, although that order was later rescinded.
Radio amateurs in the Southern Cape have been asked to make their stations available to support emergency communication, should commercial systems fail. Johan Terblanche, ZS1I, in Mossel Bay, who administers the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN), reports that the Amateur Radio JOC is currently active on the AREDN Mossel Bay Mesh Network, Echolink, AllStar, Twitter, and Zello. The Amateur Radio JOC will remain active until all fires are brought under control. The death toll as a result of fires in the Southern Cape area now stands at 7, and more than 800 have been evacuated. Disaster relief operations continue. — Thanks to John Terblanche, ZS1I A