Pomona dumpsite in northern Harare is bellowing smoke and chemical gases across a swathe of northern suburbs since Friday when a faulty power cable ignited the blaze.
The Air Force of Zimbabwe has provided a fire tender to boost the fire fighting teams at the site and a group of residents are active in sourcing equipment, fuel and water to help the fire-fighting teams.
In an interview, chief fire officer Mr Lovemore Mafukidze said the fire started last Friday when an electrical transmission cable fell down and ignited the rubbish.
Mr Mafukidze said, “We still need to improve on other things. We need to have water points around the dumping site so that when these fires start they are tackled at their infancy and also that it would be easier to deal with fires when they start. In this incident, the wind was our worst enemy,” he said.
He also wants rubbish dumped at the site in future covered with soil to avoid such incidents.
A Mt Pleasant resident, Ms Helen Davidson, speaking for a group of residents organising practical assistance said several companies and individuals over the weekend assisted the local authority.
Mashwede Holdings mobilised a tipper truck and 100 litres of diesel and a local fuel company Trek donated 400 litres of diesel.
She said although there was a shortage of machinery and equipment, among other resources, the expectation was that work at the dumpsite was going to take between one to two weeks to get the situation under control.
“We also want water tankers with water so that the fire trucks could fill from these rather than going off to find water. I am fairly certain that I can assure any water-delivery companies that you will be supplied with fuel, if you are able to donate the water.
“The idea would be for the bowsers to be waiting in a safe area of the dumpsite and the fire trucks would then be able to fill up from them, rather than having to trek miles to refill,” she said.
Ms Davidson urged other organisations and individuals to assist as they were expecting approximately 100 people to come and work at the dumpsite at any time.
They needed drinking water in 500ml bottles, food, safety masks with the filters, goggles, PVC gloves, diesel fuel for the fire trucks, tipper trucks and dozers.
The city’s epidemiologist, Dr Kudzai Masunda yesterday also issued a statement on the precautions that residents around the area should take note of.
“When there is fire at the dumpsites, we are worried because at dumpsites there are gaseous chemicals and there will be a lot of decomposition that would have happened there.
“In terms of respiratory issues that may manifest it’s a dry cough, tightness of the chest and any other symptoms like itchiness, irritability and itch eyes of redness of the eyes due to chemicals that may be in the contaminated area,” he said.
Dr Masunda urged people in that area who were experiencing such symptoms to immediately seek treatment at any nearest health facility.
“Because we are also in the Covid-19 situation, some of the symptoms that I have mentioned are similar to some symptoms that might be of Covid-19. So in that event still they need to be seen and tested of Covid-19 so as to exclude the Covid-19 infection.”