The busiest part of the summer season has come and gone, now that schools are back and most people have returned to work, giving the City of Cape Town a chance to look back at the festive season and take stock of the effectiveness of its preparations.
"The festive season went off very well for the City. The extensive planning and preparation served its purposes and the operational execution went very well," says Richard Bosman, Executive Director: Safety and Security.
He said that the public holiday on 26 December 2012 was the directorate's busiest day by far, as strong wind hampered activities on New Year's Day.
Safety and Security staff confiscated just over 7 400 bottles of liquor from beaches as part of the zero tolerance approach to illegal drinking. "This played a major role in the beaches being safe and no major incidents being reported."
Bosman added that six people drowned on Cape Town's beaches over the period, but only one of these fatalities was at a beach where swimming was permitted.
"Lifeguards were deployed on all our major beaches and contributed to water safety," Bosman added. Fires
Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town's Fire and Rescue Service experienced a busy fire season.
According to Chief Fire Officer Ian Schnetler, the service responded to 8 081 incidents between 1 November 2012 and 16 January 2013. Of these incidents, 4 141 were fire related, and 3 940 were trauma/medically related.
The number of structural fire incidents dropped by 37 over the 2012 festive season compared to the previous year.
"Our busiest time was experienced over on the two days of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, where we dealt with 307 incidents, of which 204 were fire-related, and 103 were trauma/medical related incidents," he said.
On these two days there were a number of informal settlement fires, with the biggest and most devastating being the blaze in BM Section, Khayelitsha in the early hours of the New Year’s morning. Five people died and 854 families were affected. The City is looking for alternative accommodation for these residents.
"Besides the unfortunate deaths and the loss of informal dwelling units that resulted from these fires, no other property or lives were lost as a result of the many other and vegetation fires that were attended to," Schnetler said.
Over the last calendar year, there were 45 fewer deaths as a result of fires compared to the previous calendar year, he added.
The incidents on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day included 179 bush, grass and rubbish fires.
Strong wind and soaring temperatures in mid-January also resulted in a number of large vegetation fires alongside the R27, in Melkbos, the sewerage works in Atlantis, in Hout Bay and in Durbanville.
"Although these incidents have occurred, which sometimes stretched our resources, we have been able to cope as a result of pre-season plans put in place, these being the employment of 120 seasonal firefighters and EPWP support projects," said Schnetler.
"The City has also invested in new technology for specialised vehicles to assist in the combating of all types of fires, with an emphasis on structural fires where there is a limited amount of water supply. These vehicles work with compressed air and foam to more effectively make use of the available water supply in each vehicle when extinguishing all types of fires, but are especially utilised within the informal structural environment," Schnetler said.
Ahead of the festive season, Disaster Risk Management ran a community-based public awareness campaign about the risk of fires in informal settlements across Cape Town ahead of the festive season. Information pamphlets with tips for reducing fires were also handed out, in order to ensure a state of readiness for unforeseen emergencies and disasters. Visitors
Meanwhile, the Solid Waste Management Department continued its refuse collection unchanged over the festive period, ensuring service delivery was not interrupted by the public holidays.
The City's Library and Information Services Department offered special Holiday Programmes for children at selected libraries, including games, puzzles, art and craft activities, reading clubs and informative talks.
Cape Town also welcomed scores of local and international visitors over the peak tourist season, and has enjoyed a steady annual increase in visitor numbers, according to Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, Councillor Grant Pascoe.
"Cape Town as a city has already proven that it is ready to host the throngs of tourists who traditionally visit the city during the summer months," said Pascoe.
Executive Mayor, Alderman Patricia de Lille, thanked all City staff members, especially those in emergency services, for their work over the holidays. "Your dedication, professionalism and sense of service and duty led to what can only be described as a highly successful period for our city in terms of visitor numbers and economic activity.
"While many of us relax and enjoy ourselves, people clean our streets, our water flows, our lights turn on and our law enforcement services keep us safe. These people are the hidden networks of the city. They allow it to thrive and grow while remaining in the background, doing what must be done. Your hard work has not gone unnoticed and you have our deepest appreciation," she said.