Emergency declared in OR Tambo District following raging veld fires

Emergency declared in OR Tambo District following raging veld fires

11 September 2009

published by saweatherobserver.blogspot.com

South Africa — The OR Tambo District municipality has declared three areas under its jurisdiction disaster- stricken after recent veld fires left 15 people dead and damaged property, livestock and grazing land in the Transkei. Municipal manager Bruce Kannemeyer said rural villages in Nyandeni, Flagstaff and Lusikisiki had been assessed as the worst affected areas.

At least six people have died and 54 homes were damaged as a result of veld fires that engulfed rural villages in the district municipality in the past six days.

“Declaring them disaster areas enables the municipality to apply for funds from provincial and national government,” he said.

A special council meeting is set to confirm the declaration, but no date has been announced. Kannemeyer said the veld fires had caused damage estimated at more than R24-million. He said the municipality had donated food parcels, clothes and blankets to affected families.

Thembile Thomson, the Chris Hani District Municipality’s chief fire officer, said no decision had yet been taken on declaring a disaster there: “The municipality is still busy with an assessment.”

Thomson said the Agriculture Department was involved in assisting farmers with livestock claims (the Eastern Cape-Drakensberg areas). Local government spokesman Mbulelo Linda said the department had been allocated R49,8- million for 2009/10 to provide disaster management and fire services for the whole province.

“Our core responsibility is to assist families affected by the veld fires,” he said. “But we need a formal report from the affected district municipalities.”

It is not known what caused the fires. However, it is believed that the fires started on open dry grazing and spread to villages. In Nelson Mandela Bay, municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said farmers should not panic about bush fires even though the metro had serious concerns over water available from its dams.

“We have our own disaster management plan in place and we’ll be able to deal with bush or veld fires.”

Van Stadens River Farmers Association chairman Walter Passett said farmers in his area had started a fire protection association in partnership with the municipal fire department.

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