Environmentalists have called for immediate action to be taken to prevent incidents like Maqluba’s three-day fire from ever happening again.
The Natura-2000 site first started burning after a petard from Qrendi’s Santa Marija pyrotechnic show fell into the natural sinkhole. While the large blaze died down naturally hours later, fires continued to burn for days after.
Għaqda Siġar Maltin (GħSM), who have been documenting the blaze since it started, have posted a press release detailing the full extent of the damages, and explaining what the relevant authorities need to do to help.
Although a full investigation by the authorities hasn’t been carried out, GħSM suspects the blaze took off after non-indigenous reeds that cover the floor of the sinkhole caught quickly and helped spread the fire throughout the area.
Calling on the ERA and the newly-established Ambient Malta to remove the remaining reeds from the area, the environmentalist group is hoping to see more Maltese trees replace the “invasive” reeds.
Għaqda Siġar Maltin, as well as other active citizens and organisations, have also questioned why the extinguishing process took so long, causing untold damage to the plants and animals living in the protected area.
With the fire finally out, the group was also able to confirm that the large carob tree at the centre of the sinkhole has been burned down, along with a number of mature Siġar tar-Rand and 1,100 square meters of reed bed.
The GħSM’s full statement reads:
“Following the falling of a loose fireworks petard in the Maqluba hole in Qrendi during the pyrotechnic show on the eve of the Santa Marija feast, Għaqda Siġar Maltin has carried out an aerial survey of the site to examine the damage done after a fire burnt throughout the entire night of 14th August.
Preliminary observations show how the reed bed over an area covering some 1,100 square metres has been completely burnt out, consequently destroying completely a large tree in the centre of the hole which has not yet been identified.
A number of mature Bay Laurels have been burnt out also. Fortunately the Carob and Sandarac Gum Tree groves that the area is known for have been untouched by the fire.
GħSM asks why the extinguishment of the fire by the relevant authorities was delayed to the following day, endangering further the localised flora and fauna. Fortunately the fire weakened in the early hours of Wednesday morning, but had it spread further the ecological damage done would have been catastrophic.
GħSM calls on ERA and newly established Ambjent Malta to devise a managment plan to remove the invasive reeds growing in this Natura 2000 site, and replant with indigenous trees. GħSM also asks under who’s competence does the Forest Fire Risk Prevention Plan Annex 3 plan now fall, and what measures shall be taken on such woodland sites to prevent future fires, especially in sites where accessibility such as Maqluba is an issue.
While traditional fireworks are part of our cultural heritage, its enjoyment should not come at the expense of our environmental heritage.”