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Prolonged drought spurs raging fires in Nelson Mandela Bay

Property owners in Nelson Mandela Bay are on high alert amid raging fires in the area. Picture: Supplied

Property owners in Nelson Mandela Bay are on high alert amid raging fires in the area. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 30, 2022


The Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) Municipality in the Eastern Cape is battling several raging veld fires across the city, which are threatening vital infrastructure and homes.

In a statement, Mamela Ndamase, NMB media liaison officer, said that the “municipality is currently responding to various fire incidents.”

On Tuesday, 29 November 2022, city emergency services were called out to a vegetation fire in Beachview, where two houses also incidentally started to burn.

“This comes as the City continues to battle with a fire in the Bay West area, which started on Monday and is not under control yet. These serious fire outbreaks are in addition to numerous small fires which firefighters are attending to,” Ndamase said.

NMBM safety and security mayoral committee member, Councillor Lawrence Troon, said “at this stage, the firefighters were coping despite the challenges of limited human resources.”

“Our vegetation has dried out because of the drought, and we had wind on Monday and today, and that is basically what is causing these fires. We are working around the clock to get more manpower. We have vehicles, but we are trying to get additional staff,” Troon said.

Troon urged citizens to remain calm and cooperate with emergency services as the municipality tries its best to quell the fires. Residents can report fires to our control centre on 041 585 1555.

“No fatalities have been reported so far. However, we called for an ambulance to assist with those that have been affected by the smoke inhalation,” said Troon.

Fires continued to burn on Wednesday, with updates on local community WhatsApp groups warning of possible evacuations.

“The fire in Beachview/Seaview has flared up. We may have to start evacuating residents, starting with those in the New Rest informal settlement,” one resident said.

Another resident shared a video stating that there seemed to be multiple fires from the back of the informal settlement toward Beachview Road running all along the upper ridge.

The resident noted in another video that the wind was pushing the fire toward the informal settlement with flames “twice as high as telephone poles.”

Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers said it would be assisting Nelson Mandela Bay firefighters with necessities, including water, to help put out fires in the metro.

Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman said that they had been asked by city disaster management officials to assist wherever they can.

“Hot meals will be provided, as well as bottled water and other supplies that firefighters require in these challenging times. If additional water supplies are required, Gift of the Givers will send tankers from other parts of the Eastern Cape.”

“We have built 45 boreholes in Gqeberha to assist with Day Zero. These boreholes will become a source of water to help assist firefighters and bring the fire under control,” Sooliman said.

A weather update posted today on a local community group warned of dangerous veld fire conditions stating that “conditions are such that the Fire Danger Index (FDI) index will be above 75. Under these conditions, fires may develop and spread rapidly, resulting in damage to grazing land, crops, property and possible loss of life.”

The post advised the public to not ignite any open fires as conditions will be conducive for runaway fires. Fire teams, labour, and equipment, are to be placed on full standby.