20 April 2017

Kenya: Panic As a Mysterious Fire Wreaks Havoc in Nyeri Village

Photo: Joseph Kanyi/The Nation
Charles Ndegwa stands on soil which has been burning in Mutathi-ini Village in Tetu, Nyeri, on April 19, 2017.

Shock and panic has gripped residents of a village in Nyeri County after fire burnt plants and trees, forcing them to leave the area.

For the last two months, scores of people have been hospitalised with injuries sustained through stepping on the soil that is now hot.

Animals have also sustained injuries on their hooves after sinking into the burning soil in Mutathi-ini Village, Tetu Constituency.

No one knows the main cause of the fire as more trees continue to be felled.

Scientists and geologists have trooped the otherwise quiet village to sample the soil with one said to have sustained injuries in her line of duty.

Some residents believe this could be a natural calamity while the more superstitious ones base the happenings on "curses by their forefathers".


Some say the fire is ignited by a gang while others claim the fire restarts on its own after every four to five years especially when drought persists.

"There are malicious people who come to burn the place and then take off," said Mr Charles Ndegwa, a resident.

Others say the fire began more than 50 years ago "because of the curse" which is not clear.

More than five acres of vegetation mainly, shrub, eucalyptus trees and Napier grass have already been consumed by the fire.

Already, six households have directly been affected by the fire while residents of neighbouring areas grapple with heavy smoke emanating from the village.

"The fire has no timeline. It can erupt either during the day or at night and sometimes we cannot see due to the smoke emanating from the steep," said Ms Juliet Kiriru, a resident.


The soil in the area is literally burning, renting the surrounding environment with a waft of burning charcoal.

Parents have cautioned children to steer clear of the area which was their playing ground and was also used as a grazing field.

No crop flourishes in the area other than shrub, grass and eucalyptus trees.

A few metres away from the fire scene, is River Kagumo which does not deter the fire from erupting and burning vegetation on the river beds.

The fire erupts from smouldering parts of the soil.

County Environment Executive Gachanja Ngunyangi said they are liaising with experts from the University of Nairobi to establish the cause of the fire.

"We are aware of the problem but we cannot confidently say what is causing the fire but we are discussing the matter," he said.


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