Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bad news and good news from Cape Town

What a week it has been!

Like Southern California, the area around Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate - wet winters and dry summers.

This week the huge Table Mountain National Park (25,000 hectares), which is surrounded by the city of Cape Town, caught fire.  Fanned by an extremely strong south-easter, the fire spread rapidly, threatening homes and communities.  Three retirement homes in Noordhoek were evacuated in the early hours of the morning, as half a dozen homes in the area were burnt to the ground, as well as a 5-Star hotel sitting on the water's edge in Hout Bay..

One of the retired women commented to a reporter that she hadn't had as much excitement in years!

To compound the problem, persistent winds combined with the hottest day on record for Cap Town (40 degrees C - 104 degrees F).

Firefighters had to walk to many of the fire due to the mountainous nature of the area.  And as you can imagine, there are hundreds of them trying to contain the blaze, plus water-bombing helicopters and planes.

As of Wednesday evening, fires were still raging in many areas, and a new one had started in the Cape Point area.

This area is by far the smallest of the earth's six floral kingdoms (about a third the size of the UK) and is the only one contained within one continent.  Fortunately the 8000+ species of plant thrive when there are fires like this.  However, the animals don't, and the kill rate has been very high.

Of course, the best way to convey what is happening is to show you.

300-year-old Tokai Manor is threatened.

A bakkie (pick-up) full of ice for the firefighters

A small tortoise rescued
A large one perishes

Rescuing a baby squirrel

One of the many who put their lives on the line
The good news:

After Caro's sad tale last Friday about Mikaeel Kular, I have a happy one.

Seventeen years ago, on April 28, 1997, Celeste Nurse gave birth to a daughter at the famous Groote Schuur hospital (of Christiaan Barnard fame).  She and her husband gave the little girl the name Zephany.

When Celeste awoke after being heavily medicated for a Caearean section, the little girl had disappeared - abducted by someone unknown.

One cannot imagine the grief that the family felt.

Later the Nurse family had three more children, the eldest being Cassidy.  But Zephany's family never gave up hope and celebrated her birthday every year.

At the beginning of this year, 15-year old Cassidy befriended a new girl at the school she attended, and they started hanging out together.  The friendship blossomed as they found they shared similar tastes in almost everything - music, clothes, boys, etc.

Other pupils at the school started commenting on the two, saying how much alike they looked.  Cassidy's father heard of this and decided to take a look himself. One day he joined them for lunch at at a local fast-food joint, and was also struck by the resemblance.  The girl also had a birthday exactly the same as Zephany's.

He decided to alert an investigator and the police.  Before doing anything, they checked on the DNA and, when it matched, took Zephany (not her name for the past 17 years) from the woman who had abducted her.


Now begins the slow, difficult, and complicated process of integrating her into her biological family.

But, nevertheless, a very happy ending.

Stan - Thursday


  1. Stan, the shots of the fire and its aftermath look like a volcanic eruption! My memories of Table Mountain and the Cape floral kingdom are vivid as yesterday. I am glad to know the vegetation will come back, but mourn the tortoise.
    Zephany's story is happy. Whatever else she is feeling, she knows that, even when all hope should have been gone, her biological family never stopped loving her. We who are focused on mystery writing know the truth: the nature of love is the most mysterious thing on the planet.

  2. For once I'm happy to be living in Johannesburg rather than in Cape Town!

  3. Yikes! (the fire) And not a word on our wonderful half-hour "world news" broadcasts about the horrific fire. They'll spend a minute or two getting the idiot opinions of idiots on the street about the latest inane happenings in Nowheresville, USA, but mention anything that happens anywhere else in the world? Maybe if an American tourist was burned to death in the fire they might have covered it...

    Mixed feelings about Zephany. I can well imagine that she's in complete turmoil, finding out that the mother that's raised her turns out to have kidnapped her as a newborn...? Sheesh. Happy for the birth family, absolutely. Very disturbing for Zephany herself, I imagine.

    1. I think Children Services is taking care of her at the moment - it is going to be a long period of integration with her birth family. And then to see the woman she thought of as her mother on trial and probably going to jail. Yikes.

  4. I thought it was a volcano at first and then saw the firestorm. Scary stuff! So is someone stealing your newborn child.

  5. Had read about the story about Zephany in the news. It is wonderful for her birth family, but very confusing for her. She is attached to other parents. It's hard to wrench children from those who brought them up, as these attachments are so strong.

    There was a similar story here a few years ago. The daughter was reunited with ehr birth parents in New York, but didn't bond with them, and went back to the woman who had raised her -- who did go on trial and go to jail. So I don't know what happened with the daughter.

    Then there was the New York Times story which was not exactly the same, but it was about two children in France who had been accidentally switched at birth in the hospital. The parents of one baby noticed she didn't look like them, so at 10, there was a DNA test.
    And the evidence showed she wasn't their biological child. And they met the other family and child.

    The woman featured in the story didn't feel attached to her biological child, but to the child she raised. So that's how the families stayed intact as they were. They didn't even want to visit each other.

    1. Kathy, have you ever seen the great movie "The. Official Story," about an adopted daughter during the Dirty War in Argentina? It's about a woman who dose not know that the child she adopted was stolen. Which could be the case with Zephany.

  6. I love The Official Story. It's one of my favorite movies, have seen it a few times and recommend it to friends.
    Just spoke about it to a waiter who is from Argentina.
    And I adore Norma Aleandro in the lead role.

    That movie was an expose of the theft of children whose parents were murdered by the junta. Aleandro goes along with the "official story" until the truth starts to dawn on her about what happened during the Dirty War to her friends, to others and how her husband acquired their daughter.
    There are some very jolting scenes in that movie as Aleandro is in the process of realizing the true story about her country and her child. Chilling and excellent.

    Aleandro had to leave Argentina during the junta's time because she was a progressive person and was in danger.

    1. Kathy, you and I are of one mind about that film. And the great Aleandro. There is a scene in that movie where she takes a box out of a closet. It contains the baby clothes the infant was wearing when she first got her. Aleandro does not say a word. It is the finest piece of screen acting of I have ever seen.

  7. Really? Wow! I remember the scene of the husband coming home and Aleandro and the child are gone. I also remember the scene of the woman who thinks she is the grandmother of Aleandro's daughter, one of the mothers of the "disappeared."

    I wish I could find more movies starring her that are also great. I have seen a few but none are as good.

  8. My God, Stan, what an emotional roller coaster ride, all in one post. From "Hell with the lid blown off" [to borrow a phrase coined by historian James Parton] to the triumph of indomitable spirit, faith, and hope over every parent's nightmare.