South Africa — One person died and thousands of animals were killed in the fires that raged across Mpumalanga, the Free State and the North West, authorities said on Wednesday.
Agriculture Mpumalanga committee manager Esme Jacobs said a 52-year-old farmer’s wife died in her house in Amersfoort during the fires that started over the weekend.
So far details were only available for damage done in the Amersfoot area, where 609 cattle, 2 070 sheep, 52 horses and goats and 253 wild animals were killed during the fire.
Thirty six thousand hectares of land were also destroyed.
Thirteen farmworkers’ homes and two farmhouses were burnt down completely and one was partially damaged. Jacobs said fires were still ongoing in the province and more information about the damage would be available by Thursday.
Free State agriculture department senior manager TJ Masiteng said it was roughly estimated that the province had suffered about R45-million in damages.
He said a total of 47 000 hectares of land and 253 hectares of cash crops were destroyed.
Eight hundred and forty five sheep, 120 game animals, 63 cattle and nine horses were killed during the fires. More than 600 kilometres of fence were damaged and 22 000 bales of fodder destroyed.
Four tons of maize were destroyed and 3,5 kilometres of water pipelines.
The north eastern parts of the Free state forming the Thabo Mofutsanyane district were most affected by the fires.
Masiteng said the MEC and Head of Department would be receiving a report on Wednesday of the damage done in the province. Donations of a 1 000 bales of fodder had already been received.
Agri-Free State CEO Henk Vermeulen said many farmers had lost everything during the fires. The wind was so strong that the fires spread in many directions, burning down everything.
“The only thing you can see is ashes. It’s devastating.”
Vermeulen said some of the fires were still smouldering and trees still burning. Last weekend more than 15 different veld fires raged across the province. Fire-fighting helicopters were on standby this weekend because more winds were expected with an oncoming cold front.
He said people had to be careful when lighting fires or even throwing out a cigarette when winds were strong.
“People don’t think about how strong a wind like that can take a little fire.”
Vermeulen said unions were trying to provide immediate assistance to affected farmers by setting up funds and providing them with fodder.
He said it usually took about 18 months with normal rainfall and no grazing at all for land to be restored. Farmers who lost grazing land would need to be provided with fodder until probably November.
CEO of Afri-North West, Boeta du Toit, said the province had suffered considerably less damage than other parts of South Africa.
Between 4 000 and 6 000 hectares of grazing land had burnt down in Groote Marico, but these were in rocky and hilly areas and not high potential grazing land.
About 25 farms were using the grazing land, many of then owned by people who only came on the weekend or during holidays. There had been a good rainy season in the province and most farmers could use adjacent ground until the grazing land was restored.
In other provinces it was reported that forest fires in Limpopo had killed a 36-year-old farmworker on Tuesday and injured a 29-year-old woman.
Local government department spokesperson Clayson Monyela said fires in the Vaal Water area of the Waterberg District Municipality destroyed about 30 000 hectares of land.
Meanwhile, 34 people have been confirmed dead and dozens more injured in fires that raged across Kwazulu-Natal.