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Fires rip through S.Africa's winelands

05:40 Wed Jan 30 2013
AAP

Runaway fires are savaging South Africa's scenic winelands, stoked by "perfect conditions" of strong winds and hot weather.

The authorities declared a code red emergency in the picture-postcard region between Franschoek and Paarl, the crucible of South Africa's wine industry.

Emergency services struggled to put out a series of blazes, deploying four helicopters, 13 vehicles and 120 firefighters.

"The fire is not under control at the moment," said Liesl Brink, incident command spokeswoman for the fire fighting effort.

Separate blazes raged on mountains near both towns, while several smaller fires smouldered, sending dense smoke over the area and obscuring the mountains which draw tourists to the area in droves.

A total of 7,100 hectares of land including farmlands, alien vegetation and indigenous fynbos have already been destroyed.

Two workers' cottages were burned down and two farms had to be temporarily evacuated.

No deaths have been reported, but a warning has been issued to residents to be alert.

Firefighters were battling difficult conditions to put out the flames, Brink said.

"There is quite a strong wind out here, the wind's blowing at 40 kilometres per hour, it's also very hot, temperatures are soaring above 30 degrees" Celsius, she said.

The cause of the blaze is still unknown.

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