CAPE TOWN - Five houses and an upmarket hotel were destroyed and dozens of people evacuated from their homes as wildfires raged through Cape Town's scenic southern peninsula, firefighters said Monday.
A massive firefighting operation was under way, with a fleet of helicopters water-bombing blazes threatening upscale seaside villages dotted along the coastline.
Fanned by strong winds and high temperatures, the fires stretch over some 3,000 hectares of the mountain range running down the spine of the narrow peninsula, national parks spokesman Merle Collins said.
The peninsula includes parts of the Table Mountain National Park leading to Cape Point at the extreme southwestern tip of Africa, a popular destination for international tourists.
As it swept towards the village of Hout Bay on the Atlantic coast, the fire ripped through the five-star Tintswalo Atlantic Lodge perched on the edge of the ocean, the National Sea Rescue Institute reported.
Guests were evacuated earlier and no injuries were reported.
The hotel "has been largely gutted by fire despite extensive efforts by Fire and Rescue Services to save the buildings," the NSRI said in a statement.
The fire had reached the border of Hout Bay, a densely populated coastal commuter village and fishing port, which also has an informal settlement on its borders, the statement said."So far we have treated 52 people for smoke inhalation and the total number of homes lost has gone up from four to five," said Cape Town Disaster Risk Management spokeswoman Charlotte Powell.
Several roads in the area, including the dramatic Chapman's Peak Drive, have been closed, snarling traffic as commuters tried to reach the city centre.
Some 300 firefighters were battling the blaze, said Theo Layne of the City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services, and are being assisted by volunteers and national parks staff."The fire is contained in certain areas, but on the higher slopes of the mountain it is not contained yet," he said.
Social media sites were swamped with messages from frightened resident describing the fires as "huge and scary" as they raced down the mountainsides.