Minibus Exhaust Sparks Farm Fire

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By Hoandi !Gaeb MARIENTAL A taxi minibus, which stopped at the roadside some 20 kilometres north of Mariental to allow passengers to disembark for a while, almost destroyed the farm of a prominent emerging black farmer in southern Namibia last week after its exhaust pipe apparently went up in flames. The accident took place at around 18:00 on Wednesday afte a transport minibus with passengers stopped for a rest along the road and its exhaust allegedly set fire to the dry grass on the main BI Road to South Africa, right across the farm Komatsas, near Mariental. The farm belongs to Leonard Stephanus, popularly known as ‘Drys’. The Mariental Fire Brigade as well as adjacent white farmers, supported by police, rushed to Stephanus’ farm to help extinguish the fire. They managed to control the blaze after a fierce battle, but the fire is said to have reignited the following day and was apparently aggravated by strong winds during the night. Police Regional Commander in the Hardap Region, Chief Inspector Kobus Meyer, told New Era that a significant part of the farm was destroyed despite efforts by the Mariental Fire Brigade, some white farmers, nature conservation officials, farm workers and other volunteers to save the farm. Chief Inspector Meyer said although the police were initially called out to the accident scene, it later appeared that the fire was caused by the exhaust system of the minibus. Nobody was injured in the incident. Meanwhile, the police have warned motorists not to park at unsafe places along the road. Stephanus, who was in Windhoek for business at the time of the fire on his farm, thanked those involved in saving his farm from total devastation. He especially thanked the white farmers in the area as well as those who came from far afield with their expensive equipment to assist him. “I can only commend the prompt action of the police, the Mariental Municipality, the Ministry of Tourism and Environment officials, the Ministry of Water and Rural Development as well as private companies, such as Pronpo Services and many others for helping us during the difficult time,” he said. “I am extremely touched by the gesture by all involved and thank God that there are still people who stand ready to help whenever it is necessary.” Meanwhile, a collision between a minibus of a courier service and a heavy vehicle claimed the life of one person on the same day of the accident north of Mariental last week. According to Chief Inspector Meyer, this accident took place at around 05:00 about 30 kilometres south of Mariental. The minibus collided with the heavy truck from behind. Both vehicles were north-bound. He said the minibus attempted to overtake the truck in the face of an oncoming vehicle and then tried to get back to its lane before colliding with the heavy vehicle. Chief Inspector Meyer said the impact of the collision was so heavy that the minibus was thrown into the lane of the oncoming vehicles. The assistant driver of the courier minibus died on the spot and the driver was admitted to the state hospital at Mariental for emergency treatment. The chief inspector advised that a modern rescue vehicle is needed at Mariental as accidents are increasing in the area. He said it takes long to help victims out of vehicles with the equipment presently available. The deceased has been identified as the 37-year-old Manfred van Wyk and the driver was the 38-year-old Johannes van Zyl. Both of them are from Rehoboth.