"Braai fire" not the cause of St Francis Bay blaze

14:35 (GMT+2) Mon, 12 Nov 2012
Management of the Royal Wharf in St Francis Bay where Sunday night's devastating fires started, have rejected suggestions that the blaze was a result of a "braai fire."

Ten of the 20 units at Royal Wharf were destroyed in the fire that eventually laid waste to 68 homes on the canals, six apartments and a business premises.

Just four time-share units were left standing. The cause of the blaze will be the subject of a police forensic investigation.

Shell-shocked home owners milled around burnt out structures that were once luxury homes or holiday homes on Monday while curious onlookers continued to flock to St Francis Bay.

Stacey Gill of Port Elizabeth says they've had a holiday house in St Francis Bay for the past 15 years or so which has now been completely destroyed.

"We heard last night (Sunday night) at about six-ish and we rushed out here from PE and our house was still fine. Our neighbours house wasn't even burnt yet but within the space of 5-10 minutes that house had gone up in flames. Our neighbours house went up in flames and we had to evacuate, the police said it was too dangerous you need to go."

Meanwhile, as homeowners and insurances assessors count that cost that is expected to run into hundreds of millions of rands, a sense of optimism remains that St Francis will rise from the ashes.

That was the sentiment expressed by Beth Mortimer, of the St Francis Chronicle, a tabloid and online newspaper for the area.

She says its been a trying time for St Francis following earlier floods and the the collapse of the Sand River Bridge.

"If you had to go and just look at the sight of the houses it is depressing but people are not letting that overtake them, which to outsiders (may be) very surprising but not if you know St Francis. They actually are determined to overcome this and try and make some good out of the mess and try and restore the town to what it was in the past."

Mortimer says the cameraderie amongst the locals has been amazing.

"St Francis Bay is actually a very unique town in the sense that whenever disaster strikes everybody stands together and they help one another, you know they go out of their way to help one another. They are just marvellous that way the people who live in St Francis Bay," she said.