Underground coal fires in Hwange town are increasingly becoming a threat to human life and infrastructure.
A road linking Hwange Colliery Company (HCCL)’s out-of-service Number Two Colliery and Number Three Colliery mines was destroyed by the lava-like fires but it has not been attended to for months despite authorities having been notified.
The coordinator of Greater Hwange Residents Trust, Fidelis Chima, said about 10 000 people are in danger as the fires have been intensifying in the past two decades. Said Chima:
The underground fires at Makwika and Madumabisa have been there for years, the place was once mined for coal, now when oxygen gets in contact with the mineral it produces heat which eventually results in these fires.
It is possible that there could be people living on top of these fires, our greatest fear is that some of the people and houses will be consumed by these underground fires.
These fires have been there for more than 20 years but they are intensifying at a very scary proportion and more than 10 000 people are now under threat.
Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) director Farai Maguwu said the Government may need to move Hwange residents from high-risk areas. He said:
Putting out the fires is not possible. Government and the HCCL need coal seam fire trackers to identify high-risk areas and cordon them off.
Some settlements need to be wholly abandoned and a resettlement plan put in place, while roads need to be constantly monitored otherwise moving vehicles can be swallowed.
Recently, an eight-year-old girl died several days after she fell into one of the burning pits and suffered severe burns to her legs.
The girl was ferried to Mpilo General Hospital in Bulawayo but doctors could not save her life even after amputating her legs.