Harrismith fire death toll climbs to six

Six people have so far died during the veld fires that destroyed an estimated 45 000ha in Harrismith.

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The fire was one of the worst ever in the province in terms of the loss of lives, said Free State Umbrella Fire Protection Association general manager Thinus Steenkamp.

Two fires have occurred in the district since 18 September. The first started in the Louisa’s Mount area followed shortly thereafter by a fire in the Eeram area. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the fires burned in mountainous areas that were not easily accusable.

It was incredibly sad that people lost their lives in the fires, said minister of agriculture Senzeni Zokwana, who visited Harrismith on 19 September.

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“Going to Harrismith to witness the devastation first hand was extremely touching,” he said. “We went to convey a message of support to all the victims and every single farmer and farm worker whose life has been affected.”