The people of Knysna and the surrounding towns are gradually beginning the painful process of recovery from the traumatic week the fires came and swept away lives, property and the feeling of security. Power is slowly being restored to tired residents as burned out boxes, cables and wires are replaced.
The flames didn’t care whether you were poor or rich, staying in a corrugated iron shanty without electricity, or a grandiose mansion on a hill – it devoured all which lay in its path.
The pics below show how the shanties of the poor were destroyed by the ferocious flames, leaving their inhabitants destitute:
Buildings will eventually rise again but precious lives can’t be replaced.
A family of three, including a three year old toddler were killed, as well as two brave firefighters in the course of duty and two elderly people, one in Thornhill near Port Elizabeth and one at Concordia near Knysna.
This image shows the fear and despair of people who have been evacuated to the beach while the sound of the booming surf tries to compete with the crackling of the massive conflagrations on the land above them:
We mourn for the loss of the things which were dear to them and in many cases achieved at great cost.
Many commonplace things can be easily be replaced if you’re insured and one of them is much like another: TVs, microwaves, fridges, DVD players and the like.
But most people have irreplaceable things which are part of their lives, reflect their unique individuality and can’t be brought back: a painting done by a beloved grandfather, a quirky drawing by your youngest child, a collection of family photos or a shelf of first edition books. Heirlooms and other things of sentimental value can’t be cloned.
We mourn for the loss of such beautiful things.
The ongoing outpouring of compassion and generosity which followed the fires has possibly been unsurpassed in the nation’s recent history, and has united people from its most remote corners in an effort of love.
But I was struck by some of the things I observed as I viewed the images of the terrible aftermath.
For example, in the image below, a lovely house has been totally devastated yet if you look closely, you will see a green potted plant in a blue pot hanging in its little trellis on the wall, while just below it a geranium with green leaves still clings to life in a white hexagonal pot.
I was really touched by this picture of life among the ashes.
I noticed, but can’t seem to find, another image where a bougainvillea in the bottom right corner stayed intact with its dark pink blossoms amid a sea of burnt vegetation.
Fire is fickle. It zigzags haphazardly through one street while keeping clear of another, leaving chaos and tears in one and sighs of relief and gratitude in the next.
Many places were saved from ruin and several of my Knysna friends were among the fortunate. Others, less lucky but still courageous and strong, were left with nothing but the clothes they were wearing and whatever they could grab while evacuating.
Here are some pictures showing how one house is reduced to a blackened shell while a neighbour is spared:
Another example of a home which was spared from the flame:
A Bed & Breakfast in Knysna, showing some intact rooms and others which have been reduced to ruin. Look at how the room at bottom left stands out in stark contrast to the upper ones. The structure gives the impression of a partially damaged doll’s house:
Here you can see how green grass still grows serenely alongside swathes of ashy destruction:
In the foreground a little green bush promises a future of greenness amid the death around it:
I feel sad for the trauma which young children had to endure seeing their precious things go up in flames, losing their dolls,teddies and other things which offer them stability. My heart goes out to all the poor pets who lost all that was familiar to them. I think it was worst for our children and our animals.
Many pets found wandering dazedly on the streets among the frightening noises of exploding gas canisters, some of whom had been taken to George SPCA about 65 km from Knysna have now been reunited with their loved humans.
Nature is truly resilient and if given half a chance and some gentle rain, the lush greenery we’re so used to seeing there will soon return to the ravaged town and shoot out the new leaves of hope and renewal.
To conclude, here’s a scene taken yesterday showing a rainbow over the coast of the stricken area, a promise of better things to come, like a benediction after a battle. Flames don’t last but tough people do. There are few things in nature more beautiful and gentle than a rainbow:
The southern Cape has experienced the Dark Side of the Force, to borrow a Star Wars analogy, and the balance will be restored. Nature has a dark side but can also be nurturing and kind. The scorched earth will heal and as a milder cycle returns the trees, grass and other plants will grow back.