Man dies in Mbombela fire
Mbombela – One person died and several properties were damaged in fires in Mbombela on Wednesday afternoon, firefighters said.
The man died from smoke inhalation in the Barberton area, the Mbombela fire department told News24. He was found dead in his home.
The department said it could not release more information. Mpumalanga police spokesperson Leonard Hlathi was unable not confirm the man's death.
Several fires raged in the Mbombela area on Wednesday morning, but were all under control by the evening.
The fire department said White River, Mbombela and Barberton were hardest hit.
Working on Fire spokesperson Linton Rensburg said 173 firefighters were dispatched to Mpumalanga on Wednesday morning to fight 12 fires across the province.
Areas affected include Warburton, Mayflower and Piet Retief.
He said firefighters managed to bring two of the 12 fires under control by Wednesday evening.
Losses estimated at R6.4m
Meanwhile, wildfires in the Eastern Cape destroyed 40 000 hectares, affecting around 24 farms.
In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, fire protection officer for Barkly East Piet Steyn said the economic loss in the area was currently estimated at R6.4m "if decent rains are received".
He said the livelihoods of around 600 people had been affected by the blaze.
"Stock losses are substantial and figures are still being verified. Wildlife losses cannot be verified, however, many carcasses have been seen."
Steyn said the fires started in the Lady Grey area on Sunday and quickly spread over the Witteberg Mountains towards Barkly East.
On Wednesday the fire fronts were 30km apart. One was on the west side of the R58 between Lady Grey and Barkly East and another to the east, on Avoca Peak, the second highest mountain in the province.
"The area is very mountainous which makes it very difficult to fight as the fire has been spreading down various valleys and creating numerous fire fronts. Strong winds have flamed the fire and roads and streams have provided no boundary."
Helicopters were grounded for most of Wednesday due to strong winds. Roughly 60 firefighters have been deployed to the area.
No casualties have been reported in the Eastern Cape fires.