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Mysterious ashes burn firewood collectors 

2023-01-10  Loide Jason

Mysterious ashes burn firewood collectors 

Veronica Hashondili, an Okahandja Park resident, suffered multiple third-degree injuries covering her left leg from the foot to the knee from a strange substance in the sand where she was collecting firewood. 

Onlookers on the scene yesterday suspected and linked the steaming ash to a volcano. However, this reporter only observed steaming hot ashes on the ground. The incident occurred on Sunday afternoon in the northern industrial area.  The 55-year-old Hashondili and two other women were fetching firewood when they step on the white ashes and burnt. The ash also caused minor injuries to Tresia Shimpanda who rescued Hashondili while Beata Paulus sustained no injuries. Khomas Police commander James Nandapo confirmed the incident saying the injured woman was taken to the hospital while the mines and energy ministry collected samples to determine the cause of the heat and ash.

 “While I was on my way to fetch wood, I just fell and started burning. I screamed and called my fellow wood collectors to rescue me. They saved my life, although one also sustained a minor burn,” she explained.

She further added that when they have been collecting wood for the past eight years, they observed white ashes but did not know it was hot.

Hitilasha Vilho, a resident of Okahandja Park who went back to the scene to examine what caused the injuries said they have walked around the area and had identified six spots with similar ashes, which are extremely hot and burning below the surface.

“This place needs serious investigations. It might be a dangerous place and the fire could spread further and damage infrastructure,” he explained. The director of the National Forensic Science Institute of Namibia, Commissioner Nelius Becker said he has departed a team to cordon off the area.

“I only heard about it now and will take a team there as the area is not cordoned off,” he explained. Commissioner Nandapo said the police are waiting for the outcome of the investigation from the mines ministry.

Contacted for a comment, mines and energy spokesperson Andreas Simon could not immediately comment but promised to comment as soon as he has consulted the experts in the ministry.

Shifting the blame

Hashondili and her neighbours accused the City of Windhoek of putting their life at risk for failing to provide services to the people. They explained that their location is part of the location that was established in 1993 but until now, it does not have electricity. 

“Locations such as Ongulumbashe 1 and 2, Okatundu, One Nation, Okandundu and Samuel Maharero have been here since 1993 but we have no electricity. Now we are risking our lives because we have to feed our families,” said Hashondili. Shimpanda also concurred with Hashondili, saying that she too have to sleep on an empty stomach as she could not collect wood for cooking on the day of the incident.

Vilho also urged the City of Windhoek to fast track the distribution of essential services such as electricity to save lives.

“When we were here with the police yesterday, we saw a lion’s footprint and snakes. Imagine the lives of these people are at stake because of the lack of services. The City must deliver to its electorate,” he said.

2023-01-10  Loide Jason

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