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Commonwealth Games 2002

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SERVICES 
Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Fire hits Zimbabwe game park
Giraffe and baby
Hundreds of animals are reported to have died
A fire has broken out in a game reserve in south west Zimbabwe, say officials of the Matopo National Park.

Park officials say they are battling with the flames which started on Wednesday.

The park lies just 30 km south west of Bulawayo.

Hundreds of animals in the reserve are reported to have been killed, while others have fled from the flames.

Safari tour operators have suspended all programmes.

Fire fighters are making little headway against the fire which is being fanned by strengthening winds.

Our correspondent says that the fires will come as a further blow to Zimbabwe's suffering tourism industry which has been on its knees since Zimbabwe's political problems discouraged foreign tourists from visiting the country.

Officials and villagers who live near the park say they suspect the latest fire could have been started by squatters who were removed from some nearby farms last week.

One white tour operator said most of his clients who had booked with him have cancelled because of the fire.

He said he believed that the fires were a deliberate attempt by self-styled war veterans to sabotage white-owned safari companies.

See also:

07 Sep 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Poachers feast on Zimbabwe's land crisis
26 Apr 00 | Africa
Who owns the land?
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