By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK NDF soldiers, the police and forestry officials were by late yesterday afternoon still battling to contain the bushfire that reduced to ashes hundreds of thousands of hectares of grazing and caused substantial crop damage in the Caprivi Region. Bernard Sibalatani, the Regional Governor who visited the epicentre of the blaze at Muyako particularly the Lake Liambezi area, said the fire again started burning in the areas where it was initially extinguished by villagers and forestry officials. Six days after it started the fire swept through 500 000 hectares of grazing and it ruined heaps of harvested maize and unharvested crop while covering parts of Katima Rural, Sibbinda and Linyanti constituencies in a thick blanket of smoke. Sibalatani said by the time he was in the Muyako area on Wednesday the wind-assisted inferno, compounded by an abundance of dry vegetation and grass, was spreading towards Botswana and yesterday he was yet in the dark about progress made by the joint teams. But he said the teams sent yesterday morning to the areas affected by the fire around Chinchimani, Muketela and Muyako were not yet back by the time of the brief interview. He also said the Regional Emergency Management Unit (REMU), a regional Government agency tasked with disaster management chaired by him, yesterday dispatched the Chief Extension Officer, Charles Sikwa-na to assess crop damage. He said Sikwana would also try to tally the number of crop fields damaged by the fire that started over a week ago at Muyako and spread west to the neighbouring settlement at Lusu and then to Chinchimani and to Muketela. New Era was informed that the teams dispatched to put out the fire have been working around the clock with a degree of success though the winds reignited the embers. Though the area affected is vast so far there has been no human or stock losses. The Regional Governor said he would only be able to have a comprehensive report on Monday once the joint fire-fighting teams are back from their missions. It appears Caprivi is becoming more and more prone to a number of calamities, as could be attested by the frequency of the flooding and the drought that on the other hand causes massive crop failure and the need for food distributions to the needy. The only natural burns in Caprivi occur from October to December when lightning may cause fires and these are normally closely followed by rain. But people also set fires for reasons such as to clear land for cultivation and to stimulate the growth of fresh grass for cattle and to flush out game that can then be hunted for the pot. But it should also be noted that many of the fires are also started accidentally. The few rivers, wide channels and roads are the only barriers to these fires while it is also true that the network of firebreaks previously cut to control and manage fires is no longer maintained. Damage caused by these infernos occurs in a number of ways, but it is the frequency of burning that probably leads to the most damage. Repeated fires kill young trees. It is now almost impossible to find young teak, kiaat and other valuable plants.
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