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Wednesday, 5 September, 2001, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
More deaths in South African park fire
Twenty-one people have now died in a fire that swept through part of the Kruger National Park in South Africa earlier this week

Among the dead were 17 local villagers who had been harvesting grass for their homes, and four game rangers who had been called in to help contain the blaze.

Kruger's many animals are reported to have escaped the blaze
Another nine people, including six children, have died in separate bush fires in KwaZulu-Natal Province, say the police.

The cause of the fire, which destroyed the Numbi camp in the southern area of the park, located about 500km (300 miles) north-east of Johannesburg, was not immediately known.

Most famous

"It could be that it was a natural fire caused by lightning, or that it was a man-made fire," said Salifou Siddo, head of corporate affairs at South African National Parks.

The blaze has now stopped.

Kruger, South Africa's most famous park, attracts nearly one million visitors a year, 40% of them foreign tourists.

It is home to species including lion, rhinoceros, buffalo, leopard and elephant.

Police spokesman Captain Harry Shabangu told Reuters news agency that most of the villagers, who had been given permission to cut grass, died as they were trying to escape the blaze.

'Running away'

"Two ladies died on their way to hospital and another died (Wednesday) morning in hospital. The rest were found at the scene," Shabangu said.

"Most of the people died while they were running away," he added.

There were no reports of tourists or animals being hurt.

Kruger Park spokesman William Mabasa said the fire, which started on Tuesday afternoon and covered a large area of dry bushland around the workers' tented camp, had been largely contained by midday on Wednesday.

The fire was fanned by strong winds which blow across South Africa at the end of the dry season.

National Parks' Dr. Salifou Siddo
says that lightning could have started the fire
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Township's tin-shack tourists
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