Schools close due to PMB fire that could be 'toxic'

(iStock)
(iStock)

Pietermaritzburg - Thick smoke from a fire at a Pietermaritzburg dumping site forced some schools to close early on Friday for fear that the fumes could be toxic.

The fire started on Thursday.

Education department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said about seven schools were affected.

The schools are Scottsville Primary, Merchiston Primary, Pelham Primary, Ridge Primary, Peter Pan Special School, Newton High and Maritzburg College.

Despite firefighting efforts from the Msunduzi Municipality, more firefighters were needed to help put the fire out.

Their efforts were made more difficult due to windy conditions and excessive heat as temperatures on Thursday reached a high of 29 degrees while on Friday, the mercury hit 31 degrees.

Msunduzi Municipality acting spokesperson Siyabonga Hlongwa said it would, therefore, take at least three days to put the fire out.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

"It is currently impossible to give estimates of the damage caused but we can confirm that currently no lives have been lost,” said Hlongwa.

Hlongwa said when the fire started, schools in the neighbourhood were alerted.

“The municipality ensured that the school near the site was notified yesterday, as the fumes could be toxic.

"Moreover there is smoke that will clear as the fire is being extinguished,” he said.

Schools contacted by News24 said they had been inundated with calls from concerned parents and had decided to close early.

“We were supposed to have an outdoor sporting activity, but seeing the fumes made us realise that this would not be in the best interests of anyone,” said one local school official who asked not to be named.

Senior municipal officials were locked in a meeting on Friday where the extent of the fire and plans to contain its effects were discussed.

The New England Road dumping site has been a source of concern from environmental groups who say the municipality is failing to maintain it properly.

The incident happened just days before the city hosts two major events, the Pietermaritzburg Jazz Festival and canoeing championships at the weekend. By the time of publishing, both events would still go ahead.


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