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20 die in South African blazes

File image.
by Staff Writers
Johannesburg (AFP) Sept 1, 2008
Runaway fires driven by strong winds across South Africa at the weekend killed at least 20 people, including two children, media reported Monday.

An 18-year-old boy, eight-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy burnt to death, with five others hospitalised, in the Eastern Cape province after fire engulfed their shack, the SAPA news agency reported police as saying.

In northern part of KwaZulu-Natal, 14 people were killed while 25 others were taken to hospitals in several blazes that swept through the province, the EMRS ambulance service said in a statement.

A six-year-old girl, a relative of African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma, was killed when the corrugated iron roof flew off a homestead, public television reported.

"There was a heavy wind that took my child away; it also carried my wife. I can't understand exactly how such a wind can take a human being," the girl's father said through a translator.

Another three people died in the eastern Mpumalanga province.

The dry South African winter -- together with strong winds -- create ideal conditions for fires to spread.

SA Weather Service forecaster Evert Scholtz said although the weekend cold front was moving away, another was expected this weekend that could bring more strong winds.

He warned that field fires would continue raging as winds were still strong, especially in Swaziland, eastern Limpopo and northern KwaZulu-Natal.

On Monday, the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) said in a statement that land disputes may have been behind some of the fires, SAPA reported.

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Wildfires Risks Increase In Western United States
Reston VA (SPX) Aug 19, 2008
"The massive wildfires raging in California this summer are symptomatic of a trend toward more fires burning larger areas in the Western United States over the past few decades," said Dr. Amanda Staudt, climate scientist, National Wildlife Federation.

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