12 women perish in Budi County bushfire

A bushfire killed at least 12 women in the Ngauro area of Budi County in South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria State on Wednesday.

A bushfire killed at least 12 women in the Ngauro area of Budi County in South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria State on Wednesday.

The incident occurred when 13 women went to the bush to cut grass to thatch their houses and got engulfed by the bushfire. One of the women however survived.

The cause of wildfire remains unclear but authorities said they are investigating the incident.

County officials appealed to humanitarian agencies to intervene by supporting the families of deceased women who are survived by several children.

Oreste Lopara, an SPLM Party member representing Budi County in the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, told Radio Tamazuj via phone from Ngauro that the incident happened on Wednesday at 1 p.m. but that no suspects have been apprehended for setting the fire.

“Some 13 women went to cut grass for their houses in Lauto Payam and a wildfire from an unknown location came and killed 12 of them and only one escaped,” he said. “Among those who died were two wives of one man and his daughter-in-law. We have not identified those who set the fire, we do not know where they came from.”

For his part, Budi County Paramount Chief Lino Atiol confirmed the incident but described it as an accident. He however cautioned people against the unnecessary burning of bushes, warning that those found doing so will be arrested.

“These women were going to cut grass and someone set fire from an unknown location and the wildfire killed 12 women. The incident happened some distance away from the residential area,” he stated. “It was not purposely done and nobody should set fire when people are in the bush. The burning of bushes should be stopped. The suspects did not know if people were there in the bush but they will be known because authorities are following to identify the suspects to face charges.”

Meanwhile, Flora Anyu Charles, the women’s leader in Budi County expressed sadness and said the death of the women shocked women across the state and country.

“It is very painful to us women and many women are now going to fear to go and cut grass for building their houses,” she said. “Most of the women who died have families so we are appealing to the Government of South Sudan and humanitarian agencies to identify and support the children they left behind.”

Davidikai Ikai, the chairperson of the Eastern Equatoria State Women Association, urged the government to investigate the matter and hold the perpetrators accountable.

“It is a great loss and the deceased women have left orphans behind. This is a very bad and sad incident that should not happen again,” she stated. “The matter should be investigated to find out who set the fire because it is not acceptable to society that people be killed in such a way. Why burn the grass? The grass at the moment is used for building.”