South Africa — At least three people have been killed and many people left homeless in gale force winds and fires which swept through parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
One of the victims was the six-year-old daughter of Chief Bhekumusi Zuma – a nephew of ANC President Jacob Zuma. The child was killed after being hit by a sheet of corrugated iron which was ripped off during a windstorm at the chief’s homestead at Inkandla. Two more people were killed in the area and 40 homesteads destroyed by fires. Elsewhere in the province runaway veld fires have caused havoc and left many people destitute.
A number of homesteads were razed in Umlalazi near Eshowe in the northern part of the province. Fires were also reported in Bergville in the northern Drakensberg area, where fire fighters were still fighting the blaze late this afternoon. Local municipalities have handed out relief aid such as blankets and food, for those left without shelter.
Fires in Mpumalanga Meanwhile, severe fires aided by a strong wind are currently raging in Mpumalanga. Plantations and veld in the Graskop, Kaapsehoop, Piet Retief and Bushbuckridge areas were some of the places affected. Six people had to be taken to hospital in Ermelo after they were caught in a fire. Buildings at the Lowveld Showgrounds in Nelspruit were also gutted by fire. The first fire was reported just before 7am today.
Hours later, huge clouds of smoke were still hanging over Mpumalanga. The strong winds made it impossible for fire fighting planes to take off. Only two bomber helicopters had been deployed at the Berlin Plantation outside Kaapsehoop. Buildings and a vehicle were burnt to ashes when a spark from a veld fire ignited a building with a thatched roof.
“Working on Fire” has deployed fire fighters to all the affected areas. Strong winds are predicted for the Eastern Higveld tomorrow, but it is expected that the weather will clear up later this week.