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mec urges alert over wild fires

By Mhlaba Memela | Sep 04, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

KWAZULU-NATAL MEC for local government and traditional affairs Nomusa Dube has called on communities to be on the alert for wild fires that continue to rage through the Drakensberg and other parts of the province.

Amid a heat wave that has reached an alarming 40 degrees Celsius in parts of the province, several wild fires erupted at Cathedral Peak, on the economically significant Drakensberg World Heritage site, threatening the lives of communities and tourists.

An inferno also broke out in Winterton, Eshowe and Hluhluwe, causing damage to grazing land and threatening game parks.

The fire that engulfed the Drakensberg area on Wednesday left extensive damage.

Veld fires were fuelled by strong winds and Kenaf Factory in Winterton was gutted. The fire caused damage estimated at more than R30million to the largest factory that produces natural fibre used in the automotive industry.

A disaster management team was dispatched to the affected areas to investigate the source of the fire and monitor the situation.

Dube said people should exercise extra caution in dealing with any objects that may lead to fires as the province experiences dry and humid weather conditions.

"The situation is particularly critical amid warnings by the South Africa Weather Bureau that temperatures would remain high well into the weekend.

"We have activated all our disaster management centres. Our teams are deployed on the ground and we have been successful in putting the fire under control," Dube said.

She said her department will conduct an assessment of the damaged caused by the recent fires.

"People should guard against accidental ignition of fires, including being careful about paraffin stoves and candles, among other things.

"We do not want a situation like that of last year, when we lost some 30 lives during the blaze that raged through the province," she said.

MEC Dube warned that those caught setting up bush fires would face the full might of the law.

She said any threat to tourist attractions was a risk to the economy as tourism created jobs.


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