Riot Hlatshwayo

About R2,5million of damage was caused when a lodge caught fire in Mpumalanga early yesterday morning.

The cleaning staff at Baluli Lodge in Badplaas opened the kitchen and found it on fire at about 5.30am.

They immediately called lodge owner Isaac Sheriffs Adams and the Badplaas police.

Police then summoned firefighters from Carolina, about 50km away.

Meanwhile, workers from the nearby Badplaas Aventura resort and the local municipality ran to the scene with small fire extinguishers plucked from the walls of the resort.

But, despite their efforts to contain the fire the blaze soon spread and flames were engulfing the lodge by the time the professional firefighters arrived.

Inspector Mtengu Joel Zulu of the Badplaas police said about 80 guests were evacuated from their rooms unharmed.

"The residential area of the lodge is safe," Zulu said.

The fire was still burning fiercely at midday, but firefighters gradually succeeded in bringing it under control by the afternoon.

The police and bystanders managed to remove items from the burning building.

"Among the items were three big gas cylinders that were posing serious danger because they could have exploded if exposed to fire," said Zulu.

"That could have resulted in a disaster."

Zulu said police suspected thatthe fire might have been caused by a gas cylinder exploding or that an electric cable short caused the blaze.

No injuries were reported.

Mpumalanga tourism spokesman Kulufelo Khwinana said she wanted to get the details of the blaze before commenting.