Mountaineers flee from burning Kilimanjaro

NAfter the situation on Mount Kilimanjaro, shrouded in flames and smoke, worsened, several international mountaineers attempted an emergency descent. “There is too much smoke here, we are afraid of carbon monoxide poisoning,” reported mountain guide Debbie Bachmann, who broke off the ascent with a group of Germans, Austrians and Swiss on Thursday. In one photo there was a thick cloud of smoke blocking the way.

She had initially received instructions from the national park authorities to take her group to safety in the Barafu Camp, which is 4673 meters high, but was then sent down to the 3700-meter-high Horombo camp. “Those who tried to climb had to turn back – no chance,” she reported. In the Horombo camp, some huts had burned down, as a photo showed. The group of ten mountaineers was brought down the mountain in an ambulance, reported Bachmann. By late Thursday evening, they had almost reached the Marangu entrance of the national park.

28 square kilometers of heather destroyed

A camp with mountaineers from Switzerland and other countries had to be cleared on Thursday night because of the approaching flames, as tour organizers of the German press agency said. “Besides my Swiss group, there were five to six other groups who had to break up their tents at midnight,” explained Henning Schmidt, the German mountain guide who has lived on Africa’s highest mountain range for 15 years. The Mweka camp is located at the tree line and is the last camp before leaving the mountain range when descending the various routes. Many mountain tourists reach it exhausted from the arduous descent.


A group of German, Swiss and Austrian mountaineers have set up their camp on Kilimanjaro at an altitude of around 4,000 meters.
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Image: dpa

Satellite images of the massif consisting of the Mawenzi, Shira and Kibo craters showed a clear spread of the flames, which had also divided. “The fire is now expanding more and more,” said Schmidt. Especially in the southeast the smoke development increased again in the afternoon.

The Tanzanian Tourism Minister Hamisi Kigwangalla said on Twitter: “We are still fighting the fire, the work is more difficult than we thought; Strong winds and dry vegetation pose a challenge. ”A helicopter has been in use since Thursday and they are trying to get more planes for the fire-fighting work, a statement said in the evening. Nevertheless, the minister emphasized that mountaineering in Kilimanjaro National Park would “continue as usual”.

According to officially unconfirmed industry information, the national park authority considered recalling all tourists still in the mountains. According to estimates by the local tourism industry, more than 100 local mountain guides, porters and tourists were still out and about in the area. However, there was no official information.

The major fire broke out on the southern flank of Kilimanjaro on Sunday for reasons unknown until now and, according to official information, has since destroyed at least 28 square kilometers of heather. The height and the sometimes difficult to reach seat of the fire make the extinguishing work difficult. According to officially unconfirmed reports, buildings have now also been destroyed.

Kilimanjaro, nicknamed the “Roof of Africa”, is Africa’s highest mountain at 5895 meters and is also considered the highest free-standing mountain in the world. In Tanzania, where elections are due to take place on October 28th, mountain tourism is an important employer and source of foreign currency.

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