Swaziland: Fires OCHA Situation Report No. 1

3 August 2007

published by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Swaziland declares National Fire Disaster

Situation overview

1. On the 1st August 2007, the Prime Minister Mr. Absalom Dlamini declared the devastating field fires that have been raging for days a nationaldisaster.

2. The raging fires fueled by strong winds have destroyed approximately eighty percent of the Mondi Forests Plantations in PiggsPeak. The land covered by Mondi Forests measures 19,500 hectares and employs 1,200 people.Infrastructure such as water systems that supply potable water to the housing estates and one of the mills suffered damage. The company is facingchallenges with providing potable water to the worker community inside theplantations. At the initial stage, the company is likely to employ a number of workers for harvesting trees and clearing the forests, however it isestimated that after a few months the company will have to undertake massiveretrenchments. Many people will lose their jobs and it is estimated that it will take approximately ten years for the forestry industry torecover from the effects of this disaster.

3. The Sappi Forests in Bhunya and Mhlambanyatsi eighty kilometers away from Pigg’s Peak were not spared from such fires. It is estimated thatapproximately 4,000 hectares of forest have been lost to the fire. These hectares represent about 7.5% of the land under forestcultivation. The long-term effects of the fire for this company are the sustainability ofthe forest industry and the economic survival of the company.

4. Two people died from the fires and many were injured by roofing material that got blown by the wind, many other suffered injuries as they wererescue out of their burning houses n the night. As many as 300 homesteads are reported to have first been affected by the windstorms and the fire.Early reports from the Baphalali Red Cross indicate that some homesteads 1. lost entire homes, property, food and cattle, goats and chickens in thefires. The total number of people affected probably runs into several thousands, however definite figures will be established with time.

National Response

5. Today the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade convened a meeting of the international community to announce the declaration and launched anappeal for support to help the county respond to the fire disaster.

6. The Government of Swaziland has established a Cabinet Task Team to lead the response to the drought and fire disasters. The Task Team will beleading the National Disaster Task Force and the Water Crisis Committee and coordinating the work of organizations working in the response to thedisasters.

7. The Parliament has recently approved a supplementary budget of E140 million ($20 million) to respond to the drought disaster. Part of thebudget will be assigned to emergency food and water and a portion will now be diverted to the fire emergency response.

8. The Baphalali Red Cross society is on the ground distributing relief materials such as f temporary shelter and food. However some rapidassessments are required to bring gather information and facilitate timely and appropriateinterventions.

International Response

9. The international community has not yet made any pledges and is awaiting release of the government report of the loses.

Contact Details:

In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Desk Officer (New York)
Ms. Aida Mengistu
Tel: + 1-917-367-5145

Press contact: (Geneva)
Ms. Elizabeth Byrs
Tel. +41-22-917 2653

Press contact: (New York)
Ms. Ms. Stephanie Bunker
Tel: +1-917-367-5126

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