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South African town engulfed in raging fire

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A wildfire was burning for a third day Thursday on a mountain near Cape Town, the legislative capital of South Africa.

The wildfire started on Tuesday on the mountain slopes of Simon’s Town, around 40 kilometers south of Cape Town and part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality.

So far, the wildfire has burnt approximately 1,140 hectares of land in the area, said a statement issued by South African National Parks on social media Thursday evening. According to the statement, the fire erupted under “extreme weather conditions,” including very high temperatures, low humidity, and strong southeasterly winds.

“These conditions, coupled with dry vegetation, created an ideal environment for rapid fire spread due to the high fire danger index. The increase in wind speed and consistent changes in direction further fuelled the fire to multiple areas,” said the statement.

Hundreds of firefighters were deployed to battle the fire on Wednesday. Five of them were injured and two were taken to hospital. “Presently, approximately 80 firefighters, aerial resources, and management staff remain on site. An additional 60 firefighters will replace the day shift crew overnight,” the statement added.

While nearly 40 nearby houses were evacuated in the early hours of Wednesday, the fire also put the Naval Base Simon’s Town — South Africa’s largest naval base — under threat, damaging one derelict building on its grounds. Wildfires often break out on the mountain slopes around Cape Town in the hot, dry months from November to April. They become dangerous and unpredictable when they are fanned by strong coastal winds.

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