UGANDA (eTN) – A raging bush fire, allegedly set by staff of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, has devastated the Kyambura Game Lodge earlier in the week, according to reports from a source close to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The fire was reportedly started by UWA staff to clear dry vegetation and allow for fresh green shoots to emerge with the onset of the rainy season, but got out of control and spread not only beyond the park but also to the nearby lodge.
According to the same source, UWA is already trying to wriggle out of being the responsible party in order to avoid compensation claims, setting the course for a court battle over who is responsible for the damages and the cost of restoration and loss of revenue. While the lodge may have been insured against fire damage, the loss of available beds in Queen Elizabeth National Park is equally considered to be damaging tourism prospects, as during the peak season the available lodges inside and outside the park are often fully booked.
The lodge owners also alleged in media interviews that UWA did not adequately respond when the advancing fire was reported to them, only being told to take care of firefighting directly, while the advancing fire, however, was too strong, driven by gusts of wind, to resist it or put it out. Set at the Kichwamba escarpments, the lodge, comprised of 7 twin cottages and a main building, is valued at over US$1 million. No date for a possible re-opening has been set yet as the fire damage is still being assessed.
Uganda has been named by the Lonely Planet guide book company as “The Destination for 2012,” while the country is also preparing to celebrate 50 years of independence from Britain, hoping to cash in on both events with increased tourist arrivals.