PRETORIA, The Presidency has dismissed false reports which claim that President Jacob Zuma said Knysna in the Western Cape was not his concern.

The Presidency said the disturbing claims are contained in an online fake news report. It warned the public to be vigilant against online fake news reports.

The online report and supposed quotation from the President are false, the Presidency said.

President Zuma said that government is extremely concerned by the loss of life, displacement of people and total devastation that has befallen Western Cape residents, including Knysna, Plettenburg Bay in the Cape Peninsula and all affected areas, due to severe weather and heavy storms.

"Government has dispatched humanitarian and other support to all the affected areas, especially poor communities, which is being coordinated through our National Joint Operational Centre (NATJOC) Disaster Management, working with the Western Cape Provincial Government and Provincial Disaster Management teams," said President Zuma.

The President also thanked all the people who have come forward to support the affected communities. He appealed to those with the means to assist the residents of the Western Cape, who have been caught by the devastating effects of the storm.

Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa has sent condolences to the families of the nine people who have died in the recent Western Cape storms and fires.

The Minister also thanked the tourism industry for responding swiftly to the needs of tourists who were affected by the disaster.

The popular tourism destination of Knysna has been declared a disaster area after 20 suburbs and informal settlements were devastated by destructive fires.

An estimated 8,000 people were evacuated, while hundreds of homes have been completely destroyed by the runaway fires and exceptionally high winds.

We also sympathise with all those who have lost their homes and belongings, especially those who have lost their homes in informal settlements, she said.

In addition, government has sent SANDF troops to the area and is coordinating humanitarian support for the residents who have been left homeless.

We appeal to people throughout South Africa to support our compatriots in need, and to contribute to the various relief initiatives that are underway in whatever way they can.

She said the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association has also established an operations centre for medical emergencies, reporting missing people, lost passports and repatriation requests. The centre, which can be reached on 27 1000 70230, also offers trauma counselling services.

Minister Xasa said the immediate priority was to provide for the homeless and destitute, to restore essential services to the area, and to ensure that tourists are safe and accommodated.

In addition, tourists who need emergency accommodation can contact the Sedgefield Tourism Offices on 2744 343 2007.

Once the situation has been stabilised and these urgent priorities have been addressed, we will need to assess the full impact on tourism facilities and attractions in the region, as tourism is a key contributor to our economy.

We will work together with our sister government departments to consider what relief measures can be implemented in the medium term, so that the tourism economy can be revived as soon as possible, and incomes will be restored for the people who depend on tourism for a living, said Minister Xasa.

Meanwhile, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and all Provincial MECs of Human Settlements have also extended their condolences to the victims of the Knysna fire and those affected by the storm and winds in the Cape Town.

The Minister and all MECS have agreed to extend additional capacity if required to the Western Cape Provincial Government and the Provincial Human Settlements for disaster management and management of displaced people.

The meeting held in Pretoria between Minister and MECs also agreed that during disaster time all provinces must come together and share resources and skills to address a disaster.

"The Human Settlements family must always work together to alleviate pain from our people, we must deploy all our skills and resources as a family to serve our people," said Minister Sisulu.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

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