Free State veld fires engulf over 70 000 hectares of land

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More than 70 000 hectares have been destroyed by veld fires around the Free State since last week. Farmers have lost livestock and some infrastructure has been destroyed.

Authorities say the windy weather conditions might cause reignitions. Different teams of firefighters have been dispatched to different areas to assist to in containing the blaze.

A farmer from the south of Bloemfontein, Schalk Van Der Merwe, lost nearly 150 sheep. The surviving ones are in severe pain. 95% of his 1000 hectare farm has been burned. Van Der Merwe has called for emergency interventions.

“I believe that the total loss is going to be about something 250, hopefully not more… it’s a big loss and it’s all my main stock and my other problem is 95% of my farm is burnt and I don’t know what are the sheep going to eat tonight and the next few weeks.”

Another family has to relocate after losing half of their belongings. Farmer, Brinke van Der Merwe, explains.

“We lost our cattle, the people next to us have to put out their cattle. All of our sheep are gone, we lost half of our home. We were stuck in a smoke and I almost lost my dad most of the farm is burnt down. We have to move to Bloemfontein now.”

Government visited some of the affected farms. Free State MEC of Agriculture, William Bulwane says the department will have to intervene.

“Teams will still come to assess the damage. But we have seen there’s a lot of damage caused, animals are dying.”

Free State corporative governance MEC, Thembeni Nxangisa, says they will be evaluating the magnitude of the damage to determine the way forward.

“We are working together, we will be taking the report to the executive committee so that after the assessment we can declare a disaster if necessary.”

The weather office has issued a warning of extremely high fire danger conditions for Free State and Northern Cape.