South Africa — By Nov 16 2011, more than 393,600 hectares of farm-land have burned down in the massive series of 430+ seperate veld-fires which have raged since August. At least 5 people were killed in mostly white-owned farming- and smallholdings regions of South Africa. This week in the Eastern Cape, the Air Force rushed in helicopters to help douse the fires there. Two farmers were arrested near Koster by police after they had made citizens arrests of arsonists who had been caught in the act. The arsonists were let go.
Commercial farmers fear that the old, familiar terrorist-style scorched-earth campaign against Boer-farmers which raged before 1994, has returned. Widespread evidence is being found that the majority of these mysterious fires which have erupted ever since August, were deliberately arson. The death toll has meanwhile risen to five killed, while at least three, possibly more, people are still in critical condition in intensive-care units. Many tens-of-thousands of livestock were torched or had to be put down due to their massive injuries.
107,000 hectares of farm land destroyed in Colesberg, NC
On Nov 17 2011, it was reported that the latest region to be targetted was Colesberg in the Northern Cape. In last weeks firestorm, another 107,000 ha (20%) of the Colesberg districts land was torched, said Agri-North Cape farmers cooperative.
Chairman Clem Olivier of the Colesberg farmers association said an average-sized farm in this semi-desert region is 3,000 ha to 5,000 ha. A total 33 farms were burnt down during last weeks devastating veld fires. Driving on the road here one sees blackened fields for kilometres. The fires started breaking out on Tuesday 8 November 2011 at 11am. By 4pm they had spread 60 kilometres further. He also was left dumb-founded about the massive help from fellow-farmers, he said: It started shortly after they broke out: 40 bakkies (little farm-trucks) with water-tanks arrived and an hour later another 40 showed up from the region. One does not always realise the fondness farmers have for each other. The help has been phenomenal. Fodder also started arriving in short order, much of it from as far away as Bredasdorp, Dodrecht, Cradock, Heidelberg, Riviersonderend, Hopetown, the Van der Kloofdam-region, Schoombie en the southern Free State. The local guys also help each other a lot. Farmers worry not only about the lost grazing and livestock: they are also concerned that it could take two to three years even up to 20 years for the veld to recover. Depending on the weather the bossiesveld can even take five to seven years to recover. Some farmers Bossies veld did not recover for 20 years after a big fire. Many farmers hope for rain so that the grass starts making seeds again and kickstart the natural process.
On November 9 2011 SAPA and Volksblad recorded another farm worker succumbed to his wounds at Colesberg hospital and two more required treatment after battling veld fires at Colesberg, SAPS capt Tony Modise said. Two other workers were treated for smoke inhalation and burn wounds in the hospital at Colesberg. Volksblad writes that thousands farm-animals were lost in the Northern Cape fires. It started on a farm near Norvalspont around 11am on Tuesday, and moved to surrounding farms
286,600 hectares of grazing land destroyed in north west
Since August at least 286,600 hectares of grazing land were destroyed in North West province alone. Agri-NW farmers representatives lobby has applied for regions of the province to be declared emergency areas so that the farmers can be compensated for thousands of heads of torched livestock and destroyed crops.
Killed and injured
Besides the unidentified farm worker killed in the Norvalspont, North Cape fire on Nov 9 2011, Afrikaner farmer Jan Vosloo 45, farm worker Geelbooi Khi also died at Marikana in September and as also became known on September 2: at Koster NW farmer Pieter Lewis, 67 of Enkelbos passed away from burns and smoke inhalation at Milpark Hospital i/c unit Johannesburg; also critically injured were Mrs Christian Claassens, 67, daughter Carina: who were taken to the burn-unit at Pelonomi Hospital, Bloemfontein: also killed were farm workers Shadrock Moeto and Nsakisan at the Koster NW farm fires.
Two farmers also were arrested by police when trying to make a citizens-arrest of a black man who was seen running away with fuel-can after setting fire Their case has since been dropped but the suspect has disappeared.
SAPS captain Adele Myburg said farmer Jan Vosloo, 45, died on Tuesday. Vosloo and four of his employees were fetching cattle from a farm on fire. 19-year-old Geelbooi Khi, who went with them also burnt to death. His body was found after the fires were brought under control. Mr Vosloo died from the horrific injuries he sustained at Groot Marico, North West police said on Thursday. Three other people were injured: amongst them an unnamed 26-year-old woman who sustained burns to her face, left hand and both legs. She reportedly is still recovering at the Zeerust hospital. Two other men were taken to hospital and discharged on the same day.
Areas affected included Potchefstroom North, Muiskraal, Rysmierbult, Welverdiend, Mooibank, Kromdraai, Parys, Lindequesdrift, Fochville, Enselspruit, Klipdrift and Vredefort Dome. At least 286,600 hectares of grazing land were destroyed in North West. The veld-fires burnt uncontrollably for most of the week more than 380 fires were identified within a 24-hour period: there was strong proof that the majority were deliberately set, many farmers said.
Near Koster alone, tens of thousands of hectares fields with maize and wheat and thousands of heads of livestock were torched. Yet white farmers who made citizen-arrests of black arsonists who were caught in the act, were arrested and charged with assault.
Farmer Jan Vosloo 45 and farm worker Geelbooi Nkhi, 19 are dead, Mrs Christian Claassens, 67, and daughter Carina critically injured: treated at burn-unit of Pelonomi Hospital Bloemfontein with severe burn wounds after they were trapped during a firestorm just outside Vredefort in the Free State. Two farmers arrested by police when trying to make a citizens-arrest of a black man who was seen running away after setting fire
Her son Nico Claassens of Pietersburg said he believes his mom and sister tried to turn back when confronted by thick smoke. On Aug 25 2011 Volksblad journalist Tom de Wet writes from Welkom that the two Afrikaans women were enroute to the Vaal Triangle region when they were trapped on the road. The cars tyres started melting and the women tried to run away from the fire. Farm worker Geelbooi Nkhi of the farm Welgerust was admitted to the same burn unit with the women: he died last night. He was caught by the flames when he was trying to put out the fire together with a team of farmers and firefighters outside Vredefort. Prof Sampie Smit of the hospital said the women sustained up to 50% burn wounds and smoke damage to their lungs and vocal chords. The devastating veld fires have destroyed thousands of livestock and hundreds-of-thousands of hectares of grazing land in more than ten agricultural districts in the Free State alone.
Dozens of small towns agricultural areas were hit: the farmers said the devil broke lose. At Steynsrust 11,000ha of grazxing land, six warehouses, an empty farm house, 300 bales of feed, 24 cattle and about 1,000 hectares of land belonging to developing farmers were torched, noted Maryke Swart. Vredefort was particularly hard-hit: 200,000 ha of grazing land were burned. At Venter of the fire-control unit at Bultfontein said this week alone, seven large, seperate fires raged in the district alone. Teams from agricultural towns such as Bultfontein, Soutpan, Brandfort and Theunissen in more than 40 private farm vehicles fought fiercely to contain the more than 40 fires in a region of 12 km x 2 km.
August 2011: Many hundreds of fires swept across parts of Gauteng, North West and the Northern Free State in the past few days causing death and destruction. The damage sustained by farmers is immense and can be classified as a national disaster, yet the SAWDIS received no information, photos or observations from farmers, the public or SAWDIS Observers, the SA Weather Observer website complained.
SAWDIS has asked farmers and members of the public to inform the SAWDIS of veld fires and the damage caused. Send us your images, information, damage reports and relevant data for publication on the SAWDIS Blog. We need to show and educate people about the effects that devastating veld fires can have on individuals and communities.