‘GO GEORGE is an asset during emergency situations’

The scheduled routine of driving a bus on a familiar route according to a fixed roster was instantly disrupted for local bus drivers when yet another devastating wildfire broke out over George and adjacent communities two weeks ago.

The residents of Rheenendal were extremely relieved to see the GO GEORGE buses arriving to take them to safety. Photo: EdenFM

The GO GEORGE bus service was deployed to help evacuate people from threatened areas in and around George and as far as Rheenendal.  

At a joint stakeholder briefing with premier Helen Zille on Monday, Gerhard Otto, Manager of the Garden Route District Disaster Management Centre noted that “it is amazing to have an asset such as the GO GEORGE bus service that can be activated speedily in emergency situations like this, as well as last year’s fires in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay”.

Moving hundreds of people to safety

GO GEORGE bus drivers and operational staff were put on standby from Sunday night, 28 October 2018. Over the next seven days, the bus service assisted in evacuating almost 700 people from threatened areas, including Blanco where elderly people and school children were transported to safety, students from the Nelson Mandela University, patients from the Bergville Sub-acute Hospital in Denneoord, Rheenendal, and Jonkersberg near Geelhoutboom.

According to James Robb, GO GEORGE Manager, it was humbling to serve the community alongside such a dedicated emergency response team in partnership with the operating company, George Link, and their committed bus drivers.

“The memories of the June 2017 Knysna fires are still fresh in everyone’s memory, the familiarity of being on standby day and night and saying ‘yes, I’ll go’ without thinking twice … This past experience and the entire operational team’s dedication resulted in a well-oiled exercise – we were able to send buses to communities that needed to be evacuated within minutes of receiving a request,” says Robb.

He lauded the “real heroes” in the frontline of the fire and fighting disaster from the air. “What GO GEORGE contributed is such a drop in the ocean; we drove past men and women tirelessly fighting the fire day and night in suffocating smoke, getting very little sleep over an extended period of time while the fire lines just get longer and wilder. They are the heroes.”

CAPTION: The convoy of buses entering Golden Valley in Blanco. A total of 211 persons were evacuated from De Rus, Golden Valley and Riverlea and taken to the Civic Centre in York Street. Photo: SABC


‘GO GEORGE is ’n bate gedurende noodsituasies’

Die geskeduleerde roetine van bus bestuur op ’n bekende roete volgens ’n vaste rooster is eensklaps ontwrig vir plaaslike busbestuurders toe nóg ’n verwoestende brand twee weke gelede in George en omliggende gemeenskappe uitbreek. Die GO GEORGE-busdiens is ontplooi om mense uit bedreigde gebiede in en om George en so ver as Rheenendal te help ontruim.

By ’n gesamentlike vergadering van rolspelers en premier Helen Zille wat Maandag gehou is, het Gerhard Otto, bestuurder van die Tuinroete-distrik se rampbestuursentrum opgemerk dat “dit wonderbaarlik is om ’n bate soos GO GEORGE te hê wat blitsig geaktiveer kan word in noodsituasies soos hierdie, asook verlede jaar se brande in Knysna en Plettenbergbaai”.

Verskuiwing van honderde mense na veiligheid

GO GEORGE-busbestuurders en -bedryfspersoneel is op bystand sedert Sondagaand 28 Oktober 2018. Oor die daaropvolgende sewe dae het die busdiens gehelp om bykans 700 mense te verskuif uit bedreigde gebiede, insluitend Blanco waar bejaardes en skoolkinders na veiligheid gebring is, studente van die Nelson Mandela-universiteit, pasiënte van die Bergville-sub-akute hospitaal in Denneoord, Rheenendal en Jonkersberg naby Geelhoutboom.

Volgens James Robb, GO GEORGE-bestuurder, het dit die span nederig laat voel om die gemeenskap in vennootskap met die busbedryfsmaatskappy, George Link en hul getroue busbestuurders te dien aan die sy van so ’n toegewyde noodresponsspan.

“Die herinneringe aan die Junie 2017-brande in Knysna is nog vars in almal se geheue; die bekendheid van dag en nag op bystand te wees en te sê ‘ja, ek sal gaan’ sonder om twee keer te dink … Hierdie vorige ervaring en die hele bedryfspan se verbintenis het gelei tot ’n goed-geoliede operasie – ons was in staat om binne minute ná ‘n versoek busse te stuur na gemeenskappe wat ontruim moes word,” sê Robb.

Hy het die “ware helde” geloof wat die ramp in die voorste linie van die vuur en uit die lug beveg. “GO GEORGE se bydrae is so ’n druppel in die emmer; ons het verby manne en vroue gery wat onverpoos, dag in en dag uit die vuur in verstikkende rook beveg en met bitter min slaap oor ’n uitgerekte periode moes klaarkom terwyl die vuurlyne net langer en wilder raak. Hulle is die helde.”

ONDERSKRIFTE: Die konvooi busse ry Golden Valley in Blanco binne. Altesaam 211 mense is ontruim uit De Rus, Golden Valley en Riverlea en na die burgersentrum in Yorkstraat geneem. Foto: SABC

Die inwoners van Rheenendal was uiters verlig toe die GO GEORGE-busse arriveer om hulle na veiligheid te neem.  Foto: EdenFM

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