Arson suspected in Overberg blazes

Arson suspected in Overberg blazes

7 January 2010

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South Africa — Firefighters seem to be winning the fight against ravaging fires that have destroyed large tracts of land in the Overberg Region of the Western Cape. The fire, believed to have been started by an arsonist, has been raging for 14 days and has claimed one life and destroyed several homesteads.

While most of the fires have been put out, flare ups are the order of the day as police continue investigating arson in all the incidents. More than 60 000 square kilometres of land has been destroyed

Ecologically sensitive areas are now a charred landscape and damage to the whole area is being assessed by Cape Nature, and may be finalised in the next two days.

Disaster management services have revealed that these fires started as early as last October and believe that this could be the work of an arsonist.

In the Southern Cape, 18 RDP houses and shacks adjoining them have been damaged in a fire at Plettenberg Bay. About 60 families had to be evacuated after a veldfire spread to the Kwanokuthula Township.

The incident started as a small veld fire which quickly turned towards the Kwanokuthula township. Fortunately residents were evacuated in time, and tried to salvage their furniture and possessions, by carrying them out onto the street but there wasn’t enough time to save everything.

The affected people have received food parcels and blankets from the municipality. Most of them went to stay with r family or friends, while others were housed in the local community hall.

Bitou’s acting Municipal Manager, Carl Mattheus, says: “At first count 18 houses were damaged or destroyed by the fire, mostly attached to the houses are lean-to’s and most of the lean-to’s which also house families were destroyed. So our estimate is that about 60 families were affected.”

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