South Africa Government has allayed fears among the community of outside Groblersdal in Limpopo that they are facing a volcanic eruption. This comes after an unexplained underground fire burned for a week, causing panic among the locals.
The burning land is about the size of a football pitch. It was eventually extinguished by firefighters.
Municipal environmental specialists say that the dry, wetland soil was ignited by a veld fire.
Limpopo is one of the eight provinces that have been declared disaster areas due to drought.
The underground fire shocked and frightened 70-year-old Betty Mahlangu, who lives near the ground which was burning. She has stayed in the area for more than 30 years, but has never experienced an underground fire in there.
We were so afraid that we had to call the police. What frightened us a lot is that it was burning even when it was cloudy and drizzling. Fire brigades came and extinguished it, but it is still flaring up. They said there is no problem as the soil is burning beneath the ground and it is caused by dry wetland. But they did not tell us how dangerous it is. We are afraid because we have experienced this for the first time. We are afraid it might start again, she says.
Eighty-year-old John Msiza says the mysterious fire made villagers suspect that there might be a volcano in the area.
We are seeing this for the first time. We have been living here for a long time, but we have never experienced fire naturally coming from the ground. It started somewhere there and they tried to extinguish it and failed until professional firefighters came and extinguished it.
“All is well now and our people must just relax.”
Municipal environmental specialists indicated that the fire under the dry, wetland soil was ignited by a veld fire.
Spokesperson of the Elias Motsoaledi Local Municipality, Mbusi Mahlangu, says community members should not panic.
There was fire that was coming from the ground. We then invited the experts and people from the province who deal with fire. They extinguished the fire and there is nothing like that now. We thought it is a volcano, which is not true. All is well now and our people must just relax. We are going to make sure that we fence the area. It is in fact a wetland and because of the dryness it is extremely dry and it eventually caught fire.
The area is being constantly monitored in case the fire flares up again.
Most of South Africa is suffering from one of the worst droughts in over 30 years.