Fires in Southern Africa

Fires in Southern Africa

3 August 2007

Intense fires raged in Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa´s MpumalangaProvince on 2 August 2007, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image. Actively burning fire fronts are outlined in red.

2 August 2007

The large image provided above is at MODIS’ maximum resolution of 250 meters perpixel.

(source: EarthObservatory)

The Prime Minister of Swaziland, Absalom Themba Dlamini, declared thedevastating veld fires experienced over the past week a national disaster.

This followed raging fires propelled by strong winds, which engulfed thecountry since last. A Cabinet Steering Committee was announced to helpcoordinate all efforts aimed at circumventing the impending humanitarian crisis.

In Mondi Forest plantations in Pigg’s Peak and Endzingeni uncontrollableflames had already destroyed over 80 percent of the forest and several dozens ofhomes.

The fire also cost the lives of two men who were discovered burnt beyondrecognition at Mondi Forest. All government tankers were mobilised to rush tothe northern Hhohho town and help in getting the fires under control. However,the fire situation exceeded the capacity of available resources of all‘forces’ combined by far.

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Uncontrolled bush fires were devastating thousands of hectares in the southernMozambican district of Namaacha, on the border with Swaziland.

The fires have destroyed about 5,000 hectares so far this year, and 10,000hectares last year.

Fire is used recklessly in much of rural Mozambique to clear land for planting,for producing charcoal, and for poaching – in the latter case, the fires are setto drive the terrified animals into the open where then can more easily becaught.

The government has included the struggle against uncontrolled bush fires as partof its environment strategy. According to the National Director forEnvironmental Management in the Environment Ministry a plan is being worked onand should be completed and submitted to the ministry’s technical council bySeptember.

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South Africa
Residents have been urged to be on the alert for wildfires over the next threedays, as weather conducive to veld fires has been predicted.The Department ofLocal Government and Housing in Mpumalanga has instructed all municipalities tobe on full alert and standby for more possible fires.

There are currently five fires burning in the province of Mpumalanga whichfire-fighters are working on. A total of 200 shacks have been destroyed andseveral citizens have been injured and hospitalised. In addition, farmland hasbeen damaged and livestock have been destroyed.

According to Government’s Working on Fire Programme (WoF), the firefightingexercises are expected to cost R10 million. The WoF has deployed 250firefighting personnel to fight the fires, and support teams had been flown infrom the Western Cape.

The department has reported that 37 400 hectares of plantation and 15 000hectares of grazing had been destroyed. Two timber sawmills near Graskop andSabie were also destroyed.

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