S.Africa Rural Fires Kill at Least 26 People

S.Africa Rural Fires Kill at Least 26 People

2 August 2007

published by www.planetark.com

South Africa — Rural fires that blazed for weeks in South Africa killed at least 26 people, marking the worst loss of life from such infernos since the 1980s, a government spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Ten deaths have been confirmed in the northeastern province of Mpumalanga and 16 in Kwazulu-Natal, where veld and forest fires broke out on July 2, Department of Provincial and Local Government spokesperson Zandile Ratsitanga said.

Most of the fires have been contained and were no longer a threat, officials said.

Another two deaths were still unconfirmed by police in Mpumalanga.

“Work is still continuing to try and put together all the figures and a consolidated report but it doesn’t look like there’s anything that’s out of control,” Ratsitanga told Reuters.

Working on Fire (WoF) — a civic group working to raise awareness on veld and forest fires — said the majority of fires had been contained but not extinguished.

A study group formed by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) said the fires were the worst the country had seen since the 1980s.

“We are shocked to hear of the loss of life to firefighters and tourists due to this fire,” the ANC’s study group on Water Affairs and Forestry said in a statement.

Hundreds of people have been left homeless after their homes were gutted.

One person died when 200 shacks were destroyed by raging flames in Kwazulu-Natal, the SAPA news agency reported.

A Johannesburg couple on holiday in Mpumalanga was burnt beyond recognition after they tried to escape a fire that engulfed the tourist lodge they were staying in.

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