Five schools close as landfill fire rages on in Pietermaritzburg suburb

A raging fire at the New England Road landfill site in Pietermaritzburg has unleashed toxic smoke into the capital city of KwaZulu-Natal
A raging fire at the New England Road landfill site in Pietermaritzburg has unleashed toxic smoke into the capital city of KwaZulu-Natal
Image: Twitter/@NiteshZA

A raging fire at the New England Road landfill site in Pietermaritzburg has forced several  schools within the immediate vicinity to close.

Plumes of thick smoke have filtered through parts of KwaZulu-Natal's capital city.

A firefighter who has been battling the blaze said the fire started on Thursday evening and has since grown.

The firefighter, who spoke to SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE on condition of anonymity, said heavy winds and hot temperatures made it difficult to contain the blaze.

“It's still going on and there's no way we're going to put it out. I was there on Sunday and that whole side of the dump is well alight. We only have one truck there and we need more than one crew. This morning the whole town was covered in a blanket of this acrid smell.”

He said there was “no way” the fire, which he claims has covered a radius of 500 square metres, would be put out before Thursday.

“Yesterday they had two water tankers and one fire truck on the scene. From what I understand, the waste pickers started this fire.”

He said firefighters were working hard but had limited resources available.

“There are limited resources in Msunduzi. When they get another call they have to leave and then come back."

It is understood that Ridge Primary School, New England Pre-Primary, Epworth, St Charles College and St  John’s Diocesan School closed on Monday.

St Charles College marketing manager, Dean Riley, said management took the decision to close the school, which is about a kilometre from the landfill site.

“At this stage we have made contingency plans and will monitor the situation before reopening. We have closed school for today at least, and will be communicating with the parents this afternoon.”

Provincial education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa lauded the school for taking the decision to close.

“It is a good thing because it means they have put the safety of pupils first, and that is the most important thing,” he said.

Msunduzi municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said more resources have been deployed to the area to assist in battling the blaze.

“We have sent more water tankers – two teams from Msunduzi, two teams from Umgungundlovu and two more teams from Working on Fire. They are working on the edges to ensure the fire is controlled.”

Mafumbatha said security will be tightened in the area and traffic police will be on high alert.

“There will be more traffic police on the N2 and N3 in terms of monitoring the smoke. We are trying to avoid accidents.”

She said the municipality had met with the department of environmental affairs on Monday to discuss a permanent plan to address this recurring issue.

“At this point it has not been declared a disaster yet,” she said.


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