Cape Town fire: Satellite images show the destruction caused by the blaze

Satellite images from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Sentinel-2 Earth observation mission add a new perspective to the widespread destruction caused by the Cape Town fire, which broke out on Sunday, 18 April and burned for three days.

CAPE TOWN FIRE’S DEVESTATION AS SEEN FROM SPACE

The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) said Sentinel-2 images of Table Mountain National Park were captured, nearly a month apart, on 21 March and 20 April 2021.

An area of approximately 622 hectares (6.22 square kilometres), which is represented by an ugly fire scar in the images, was destroyed by the Cape Town fire.

“On the 20th April 2021 active fires were visible on the western side of the fire scar, with a few spot fires in the vicinity of UCT,” said SANSA.

Cape town fire
Photo via: South African National Space Agency

BOOKS AND BUILDINGS DAMAGED BUT IT ‘COULD HAVE BEEN MUCH WORSE’

The Cape Town fire was reportedly started by a vagrant near Table Mountain National Park and spread quickly. There was significant damage to buildings at the upper campus of the University of Cape Town (UCT) — where students were evacuated — and invaluable works housed in the special collections library were lost.

The restaurant at Rhodes Memorial was completely destroyed and Mostert’s Mill — the oldest windmill in South Africa, built in 1796 — was gutted by the fire.

Cape Town fire
Mostert’s Mil after being gutted by fire. Photo via: Wikimedia Commons

The Cape Town fire also affected residential areas in the shadow of the mountain, including Newlands, Rosebank, Mowbray and Rondebosch; evacuations took place, as a precautionary measure, in Vredehoek and Walmer Estate.

Fortunately, there were no casualties with only five non-fatal injuries reported. Hundreds of firefighters, supported by helicopters, from all over Cape Town battled the blaze and managed to contain the once out of control fire.

“Without the collective efforts of the 125 TMNP rangers, the 170 fire and rescue workers, the South African National Defence Force, CoCT personnel, law enforcement and the many volunteers, the damage, as devastating as it was, could have been much worse,” said SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni.

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Presh JM Reporter

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