Rebuilding charred dreams

2014-06-18 00:00

SIX people dead, six others injured, 200 homes destroyed and millions of rand worth of property and livestock damage.

That is the grim picture that began to emerge yesterday as the provincial government and farmers tallied up the losses caused by devastating veld fires that raged through parts of the province this past weekend.

Kokstad was the worst affected with four people reportedly killed and 15 farms destroyed with loses in livestock and property damage estimated to run into millions of rand.

Two other people were killed in other fires in the Vryheid area.

MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Numusa Dube-Ncube and Agriculture MEC Cyril Xaba visited Kokstad yesterday.

Those who lost their life’s possessions were being assisted by disaster relief teams while others were moved into safer areas as there was still a risk of more fires.

Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Cyril Xaba, said the fire was a “setback to rural development as more money will be needed to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure”.

Pictures posted on Facebook by Kokstad Fever reporter Khaya Magenu told the stories of utter devastation.

Pictures showed burnt sheep carcasses being gathered up by workers to be destroyed, animals lying dead and those that survived wandering aimlessly looking for grazing land.

Ntuntu Dweba, also from Kokstad Fever, reported that farmers bore the brunt of the fire, which is said to have started in the Eastern Cape.

She reported that the head of provincial disaster centre, Mthokozisi Duze, said, judging from their assessment and the reports they have got from farmers and other local stakeholders so far, support to the farmers and people left destitute is going to be very critical.

“Immediate intervention will have to be made in the form of animal feed, funeral arrangements for the deceased and reconstructions of huts or interim shelter,” he said.

Duze said Harry Gwala District Municipality was the worst affected district in the province, with Kwa Sani having had two fires, Ingwe with four fires, Ubuhlebezwe with seven fires, and Greater Kokstad experiencing five veld fires. Umzimkhulu had a massive 29 fires around the municipal area.

Sandy la Marque, the CEO of farmers’ union Kwanalu, visited the area yesterday and reported that the farming community had been left devastated.

“It will take them a very long time to recover … In one instance, a farmer lost 120 head of cattle, and this is a land reform farmer.”

She said some farmers were still counting the losses in dead livestock and grazing land and farm structures.

• thamsanqam@witness.co.za

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