MEC Sipho Hlomuka
MEC Sipho Hlomuka

Lack of firefighters sets off alarm bells

By Vernon Mchunu, Sakhiseni Nxumalo Time of article published Apr 23, 2021

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DURBAN - AT LEAST 143 people having died from fire-related incidents in KwaZulu-Natal over the past five years, and with the dry winter season approaching, the current shortage of firefighters and specialised equipment is concerning.

This was expressed by the DA yesterday following revelations that KZN was short of 583 firefighters and equipment to put out fires, with rural municipalities such as uPhongolo, Emadlangeni (Utrecht), Nkandla and Ndwedwe facing the worst shortages.

Each of the 54 municipalities was short of at least one fire engine, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Sipho Hlomuka said in reply to a question in the legislature.

At least 50 people have died in the Estcourt-based Inkosi Langalibalele, uPhongolo lost 36 citizens, 20 died at Nquthu, the Ladysmith-based Alfred Duma recorded 15 deaths, 12 died at the Bergville-based Okhahlamba and 10 at the Vryheid-based Abaqulusi municipalities, Hlomuka reported.

The rest of the municipalities had failed to furnish him with statistics.

Urgently required equipment included hazmat units, aerial ladders and heavy motor vehicle equipment, Hlomuka replied.

Rural municipalities within the Zululand district, including eDumbe and Abaqulusi, as well as in Jozini and uPhongolo municipalities in uMkhanyakude district were the worst hit when cyclone Eloise wreaked havoc in northern parts of the province.

While no deaths were reported, a number of houses were completely or partially destroyed .

Although rural families are sparsely populated and, according to Cogta, it would take an average 30 to 45 minutes to deploy disaster management officers in outlying areas as opposed to 15 minutes in urban areas, the department’s report to Parliament shows that rural municipalities have the tiniest number of personnel.

While uMhlathuze in Richards Bay boasts a total 132 officers, Nkandla has eight, Dannhauser six, Okhahlamba nine, eMadlangeni four, Jozini eight, Big Five Hlabisa eight, Abaqulusi five and uPhongolo has only six.

EThekwini was reported to have no challenges with its 21 fire stations and 473 fighters. This is followed by Msunduzi which has 94 personnel and uMgungundlovu a total 94 officers.

THE MERCURY

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