PRETORIA/CAPE TOWN. — Millions of rands worth of military vehicles were destroyed in a fire at a vehicle depot at Wallmannstal north of Pretoria last week when safety fires “went wrong” and a military fire truck broke down, Netwerk24 reported.
An internal investigation into the incident is being conducted.
The fire broke out despite repeated warnings that the grass surrounding the more than 2 000 vehicles was too long and posed a fire danger.
Exactly two years ago 104 vehicles were also destroyed in a fire due to long grass near another vehicle parked behind the Kgosi Mapuru II prison in Pretoria.
Spokesperson for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi said 83 vehicles, mainly trucks, were damaged and one was destroyed completely.
According to Mgobozi it’s not possible to determine the value of the damage before the investigation is completed.
At an average market value of R80 000 for an old Samil truck, the damage could amount to R6.7 million.
The vehicle park and nearby shed also provide storage for bombs that, according to informed sources, are very old and potentially highly unstable when exposed to extreme temperatures.
The bombs have apparently been kept under canvas in the shed for years without anyone ensuring that it’s made harmless or destroyed.
Without decent fire trucks, Wednesday’s fire had spread so fast that help had to be summoned from Hammanskraal. By Thursday the scene had started smouldering again.
According to Mgobozi the unit’s fire department was busy with safety fires when a sudden change in the weather made the flames spread, he said.
Meanwhile, South Africa will sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons this week during the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Presidency said yesterday.
President Jacob Zuma will ink the treaty on behalf of South Africa on September 20, presidential spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga said.
Signature of the treaty reflects South Africa’s continued commitment towards the achievement of a world free from the threat posed by nuclear weapons, Ngqulunga said.
This will ensure that nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes only, he added.
The Presidency issued the statement as President Zuma arrived in New York to attend the UN General Assembly session which is being held under the theme: “Focusing on people: Striving for peace and a decent life for all on a sustainable planet”.
This will be the first General Debate for the newly appointed Secretary-General António Guterres, who started his term on January 1, 2017.
South Africa fully supports the UN chief, who identifies his major priority as the achievement of sustainable peace and security through conflict prevention by establishing a “culture of prevention” in the UN, Ngqulunga said.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination. It was passed on July 7, 2017.
South Africa, the only country in the world to dismantle nuclear weapons it developed, has already been a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons since 1991. — Netwerk24/Xinhua/HR.