At least seven women were burned to death by a wildfire while one survived when they were collecting roofing grass in Rumbek East County, South Sudan on Saturday.
The incident occurred in Amitding forest of Cuei-cok Payam of Rumbek East County.
The police spokesperson in Lakes State, Maj. Elijah Mabor Makuac, said on Sunday that the seven women were burned to death by a wildfire in the Amitding forest while collecting grass for thatching houses.
“It was reported yesterday (Saturday) that they died from wildfire. The number has increased to seven confirmed dead and the dead bodies have been retrieved and taken to their homes,” Maj. Mabor said. “Women often go to the forest to cut grass. This grass is one of our local resources for construction. It is a source of their income because they bring it and sell it.
He said the person who set the fire in the bush is not known but that investigation was ongoing.
For his part, the executive director of Rumbek East County, James Keny Makuei, confirmed the incident.
“The fire came from the direction of a cattle camp in a place called Anyor and seven women died,” Keny said.
He added that of the eight women who went to cut thatch grass in Amitding forest, six died and the others are still missing.
“Last month, two women narrowly survived a wildfire in Bunangui forest while they were fetching grass in Rumbek East County and they are now receiving treatment in Rumbek State Hospital, Keny said.
The executive chief of Cuei-cok Payam in Rumbek East County, Pacong Rieth, said the deceased women belonged to his community Athoi in Cuei-cok Payam.
“The seven (7) women who burned to death belong to my area. I am their chief and they were eight women, seven of them died and one survived the wildfire, Chief Rieth said.
He corroborated that the wildlife originated from Anyor cattle camp and advanced to Amitding forest where the women were fetching grass.
He said that in the dry season, women look for grass in the forest which is stored to rebuild houses before the rainy season.