Tanzania counting the cost of Mount Kilimanjaro fire

Tanzania’s National Park Service (TANAPA) says the week-long fire on Mount Kilimanjaro has finally been contained.

TANAPA said reports from aerial and ground inspection teams indicates that the fire that started last Sunday ago has been put out, but only after destroying 95km (5%) of the mountain’s vegetation.

Hundreds of volunteers from local villages in Tanzania joined firefighters to stop the blaze which threatened to ravage one of the world’s richest and most diverse ecosystems.

“This devastating fire is cutting through the most prestigious natural space in the whole of Tanzania.”

Padili Mikomangwa, environmentalist based in the capital of Dar es Salaam.

The fires, which first started to burn at a rest stop for climbers, have been raging for seven days with a combination of dry grass and strong winds hampering efforts to bring the flames under control.

Vast areas of forest and low shrubs have been reduced to embers. Videos and images from the scene showed volunteers struggling to put out the fires as thick white smoke hung heavy in the sky behind them.

No deaths or injuries have been reported.

Strong winds hamper firefighters

On Wednesday there were signs that firefighters were making progress but this was thwarted when strong winds reignited the fires leading huge flames that could be seem as far as 30 Km in Moshi town.

With a summit of 5,895 meters, or 19,341 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest point in Africa. A dormant volcano, it is the highest single free-standing mountain in the world.

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The mountain’s snow-capped peaks and the surrounding national park were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Tanzanian parks officials said the fires began on Sunday at the Whona rest area, which is popular with mountaineers using the Mandara and Horombo routes to scale the mountain.

The authorities said an investigation into the origin of the blaze was underway, but preliminary evidence suggested that it was sparked accidentally by porters warming food for visitors.

Also on thesouthafrican.com: Trek4Mandela – Thuli Madonsela to climb Mount Kilimanjaro on Women’s Day

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