South Africa — About seven people have died in runaway veld fires fanned by gale force winds in KwaZulu-Natal, the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) said on Monday.
“Runaway veld fires, propelled by gale force winds, left a trail of destruction resulting in the loss of lives and the destruction of property,” Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said in a statement.
He said the number of deaths caused by the veld fires in the province, were unconfirmed as processes of certification still had to be confirmed and the next of kin had to be informed.
However, the department would visit the area and conduct preliminary findings.
SABC radio news placed the death toll at seven. Mabaso said KwaZulu-Natal Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube had dispatched disaster relief teams to parts of the province, including KwaMnyathi, Kokstad and some parts of the uGu district.
“AbaQulusi and Kokstad Municipalities are reported to be the worst affected.”
The disaster teams worked throughout the weekend to save several people and animals who were caught in the fire.
“The families that have been affected by the fires are currently receiving assistance and disaster relief kits have been dispatched to the families,” said Mabaso.
Households were also evacuated in areas where further fire damage was possible. “The priority at this stage is to contain the fire and where possible rescue people,” said Mabaso.
“Once we move to a ‘green zone ‘in terms of the fire index, we will then embark on a programme to take stock of the damage.”
Dube-Ncube urged the community to remain on full alert as the fire index remained in a dangerous zone.
“MEC Dube-Ncube warned that the province is still experiencing high levels of humidity and strong winds and remains on the high risk of exposure to veld fires,” he said.
The cause of the wild fire was unknown, but the department would confirm the preliminary findings on the impact of the fire once legal verification mechanisms were completed.
The department would also work with other sector departments, such as home affairs and human settlements, to assist people with lost identity documents and birth certificates.
“We appeal to all sectors of society to lend a helping hand in assisting of families that have been affected by the fires,” said Mabaso.