Namibia: Bushfire Still Burning in Caprivi

Caprivi Bushfire 

4 June 2006

NDF soldiers, the police and forestry officials were by late yesterday afternoon still battling to contain the bushfire that reduced to ashes hundreds of thousands of hectares of grazing and caused substantial crop damage in the Caprivi Region.The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured these images on 2 and 3 June 2006. MODIS also detectednumerous fires (locations marked in red) in Zambia (upper right) and Angola (upperleft).

2 June 2006

3 June 2006

The fire started burning again in the areas where it was initially extinguished by villagers and forestryofficials. Six days after it started, the fire swept through 500,000 hectares of grazingland and it ruined heaps of harvested maize and unharvested crop while covering parts of Katima Rural, Sibbinda and Linyanti constituencies in a thick blanket of smoke.On Wednesday the wind-assisted inferno, compounded by an abundance of dry vegetation and grass, was spreading towards Botswana andthere is no informatiuon available about progress made by the joint teams.

The Regional Emergency Management Unit (REMU), a regional Government agency tasked with disaster management, dispatched the Chief ExtensionOfficer to assess crop damage. He would also try to tally the number of crop fields damaged by the fire that started over a week ago at Muyako and spread west to the neighbouring settlement at Lusu and then to Chinchimani and toMuketela.

The teams dispatched to put out the fire have been working around the clock with a degree of success though the winds reignited theembers. Though the area affected is vast so far there has been no human or stocklosses. It appears Caprivi is becoming more and more prone to a number of calamities, as could be attested by the frequency of the flooding and the drought that on the other hand causes massive crop failure and the need for food distributions to theneedy.

The only natural burns in Caprivi occur from October to December when lightning may cause fires and these are normally closely followed by rain. But people also set fires for reasons such as to clear land for cultivation and to stimulate the growth of fresh grass for cattle and to flush out game that can then be hunted for thepot. But it should also be noted that many of the fires are also started accidentally.The few rivers, wide channels and roads are the only barriers to these fires while it is also true that the network of firebreaks previously cut to control and manage fires is no longer maintained. Damage caused by these infernos occurs in a number of ways, but it is the frequency of burning that probably leads to the most damage. Repeated fires kill young trees. It is now almost impossible to find young teak, kiaat and other valuable plants.


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