At least 45 now reported dead in southern African wildfires

Other News Materials 2 September 2008 23:16 (UTC +04:00)

At least 45 people were known to have died in three days of storms-fanned wildfires in South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, authorities and media reports said Tuesday.

At least 40 people were killed and dozens injured in South Africa as fires destroyed dozens of homes and tens of thousands of hectares of bush, forest and farmland across three provinces.

One of the victims in KwaZulu-Natal province was a young relative of ruling African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma, who was killed after being struck by a tin roof that winds tore off a building at Zuma's homestead.

Authorities in the province late tuesday revised from 14 to 34 the number killed there in the fires.

In Western Cape province roads around Cape Town were pounded by surging waves in the worst storms in the area in several years.

In Mozambique, at least four people were killed, 20 injured and one was unaccounted for after a wildfire gutted dozens of houses in a village in central Manica province, state television said.

The dead were an elderly woman and her three grandsons, who were burned in their hut. Hundreds of other villagers were homeless after their shacks were engulfed by the flames.

The fire, which was still raging Tuesday and was eating into indigenous forest, was thought to have been started by a farmer who was clearing land to sow crops at the onset of spring.

Wildfires are common in southern Africa at the end of the dry winter season. At the weekend, the fires were fanned by winds reaching gale force in coastal and mountainous areas.

In the mountainous kingdom of Swaziland, which is sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique, fires ripping across tinder-dry hillsides killed at least one person, dpa reported.