Another dumpsite fire

2020-02-03 14:13
A cloud of smoke rises from the New England Road dump. PHOTOS: nash narrandes

A cloud of smoke rises from the New England Road dump. PHOTOS: nash narrandes

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Msunduzi needed assistance from two other fire departments to douse yet another blaze at the run-down New England Road dumpsite.

The City on Sunday admitted that many of the problems relating to the dump were down to there not being a waste manager.

Deputy mayor Manilal Inderjit told The Witness that the City was in the process of resurrecting the Landfill Steering Committee and was confident the landfill site won’t catch alight again.

The dump has been beset with problems in the past six months, and environmental activists claim at least 10 waste pickers have died at the dump either from fighting over scrap or from being run over by machinery.

There have also been numerous reports of machinery breaking down.

Inderjit said the cause of the latest fire was not yet known, but said previous ones were either started deliberately by troublemakers or because of chemical waste, like a bottle of petrol, being dumped.

He said City staff worked tirelessly at the dump since the early hours of Saturday morning.

The city was once again covered in a blanket of thick white smoke after the fire began deep inside the dump where garbage is stored. The fire was under control by about midday on Sunday.

While the blaze was not as menacing as some previous ones, it still proved difficult for firefighters to douse, and additional staff from the uMgungundlovu District were called in for help.

Later, fire engines from eThekwini were called in to assist. Msunduzi had also tried to get a helicopter to drop water on the fire. An Msunduzi fire engine water pump failed during firefighting efforts, and a bulldozer was put out of commission due to overheating.

Members of the public were still allowed entry into the dump but were cautioned about smoke inhalation.

The smoke once again plagued residents of nearby Sobantu, Lincoln Meade and Hayfields, and there were reports of residents as far as Athlone and Woodlands having to keep their doors and windows closed.

Scottsville man Denesh Ramdat Govender said the smoke left him “unable to breathe”.

“Thankfully I keep my [asthma] pump at arm’s length away. When is this municipality going to wake up and do something?”

Sharda Pillay, of Hayfields, said: “It’s absolutely disgusting. We cannot even spend time outside. It’s affecting my breathing terribly. My chest is so tight because of the smoke.”

Athlone woman Charlene van Rooyen said the smell of the dump was strong even in her area, which is more than 10 km away.

Musa Chamane, a waste campaigner at groundWork, believed fires were breaking out at the dump because of poor management of the site. He added that fed-up Sobantu residents were experiencing respiratory problems because of regular smoke inhalation.

“In a nutshell, it’s down to poor management of the site. Simple things like covering the waste material daily and compacting waste daily. We hear that the dump runs out of basic things like diesel to keep machines running.

“We also think there’s little political will to resolve the problems.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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