RSA – Fire warnings after 11 die

Fire warnings after 11 die

28 July 2007

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Eleven people were reported by police to have burnt to death in fires which engulfed parts of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal on Friday.

Nine people, including a six-year-old child, died when fires rampaged Mayville, Winterton and in Dumbu near Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal on Friday night.

Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said fires claimed seven people in Dumbu, one person in Mayville and the six-year-old in Winterton.

In Winterton, 24 people were also seriously injured and taken to hospital and 200 shacks were destroyed in Mayville.

In Mpumalanga, a holidaying Johannesburg couple were burnt beyond recognition after trying to escape an enormous fire that ripped through a tourist lodge in Friday night.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Abie Khoabane said the couple were in their car, trying to escape the flames at the time of their deaths.

The fire started at Studs Farm outside Machadodorp with heavy winds causing the fire to travel up to 90 kilometres per hour.

About 800 cattle, a number of sheep, four houses, and telephone lines were also engulfed by the flames.

Khoabane said a hotel in Graskop also burnt down but nobody was injured.

In Graskop and Sabie, fires destroyed two sawmills and about 15 000 hectares of forestry plantations according to preliminary estimates, Working on Fire said.

The group reported that more than forty wild fires had caused extensive damage in both provinces and included a blaze in Swaziland.

The group reported that the “fire weather” would continue for a number of days, and that Friday’s conditions were regarding as red (high) and Saturday’s condition as yellow/orange (medium).

The weather in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga might worsen within the next few days, the group said.

CEO Johan Heine said: “We must now move into an extended attack mode, deploying fire fighting resources strategically where they will be most effective.”

Twenty six aerial fire fighting resources were operational and an additional three South African National Defence Force helicopters were recruited to assist.

Five 22-person Working on Fire crews were currently supporting the local authorities’ and forestry companies’ fire fighting forces with eight crews expected from Gauteng and the Free State.

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