/ 6 September 2008

Fires flare up as strong KZN winds kill two

A total of 11 veld fires were reported in different provinces on Friday, Working on Fire said. In KwaZulu-Natal, the flames were fanned by gale-force winds also blamed for at least two deaths.

Working on Fire spokesperson Val Charlton said three fires were reported in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, two in Free State and six in KwaZulu-Natal. Some fires were still burning by late afternoon.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said a farmer was severely burnt in a blaze in Melmoth, in northern KwaZulu-Natal. ”He was taken to Alberlito Hospital in a critical condition,” he said.

”Slight cooling is expected over Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng, Free State and North West on Saturday,” Charlton said. ”An increase in the fire danger rating is expected to return on Sunday. The conditions in KwaZulu-Natal are expected to continue till Saturday.”

Firefighting helicopters were on standby because more winds were expected on the weekend with an oncoming cold front.

Seven of South Africa’s nine provinces have been hit recently by more than 100 fires fanned by strong winds. The blazes claimed several lives and thousands of animals were killed.

In Durban on Friday, two people were crushed to death when walls collapsed on top of them during gale-force winds, police and paramedics said.

Police spokesperson Captain Khephu Ndlovu said a three-year-old boy was playing at his H Section home in Umlazi when a wall fell on top of him. ”We believe heavy winds caused the wall to collapse. An inquest docket has been opened,” he said.

In Queensburgh, another person died when a structure at a Spar store collapsed.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said: ”It fell on top of a man who was walking there. He was critically injured. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him on scene but he died.”

Ntobeko Nkangane, a forecaster for the Durban Weather Bureau, said: ”We have been experiencing gale-force winds gusting up to 110km/h, and it has gone far beyond 32 knots … a maximum of about 55 knots.”

ER24 spokesperson Derrick Banks reported that a tree had been uprooted, blocking Durban’s Essenwood Road.

At Inanda Dam, a ski-boat with five men on board capsized ”after strong winds resulted in a big swell”. All five were rescued unharmed. — Sapa