Updated 5.31pm with new video, statement by Environment Authority
A stray petard from the feast of Santa Marija is being blamed for setting off a fierce fire in the Nature 2000 site at Il-Maqluba, which was still smouldering on Thursday morning.
“It was a huge fireball,” said Steve Zammit Lupi from Għaqda Siġar Maltin, which has written to the Environment and Resources Authority to assess the damage.
Il-Maqluba, limits of Qrendi is a deep, natural large-scale inland sinkhole. It has a unique ecosystem with its own unique micro-climate which supports an important population of native tree communities, dominated by the bay laurel tree, which is locally rare, and including the national tree, the sandarac gum tree.
The site is also home to a number of other rare species of plants and fungi, such as the Maltese salt tree, which are found only in Malta. Moreover it is a delicate nesting area for Malta’s national bird – the blue rock thrush.
The Planning Authority scheduled the site in 2009 and in 2016 gave it further protection.
Partit Demokratiku lamented the Civil Protection Department’s lack of timely action to extinguish the fire, which it said was still spreading, albeit slowly.
It noted that pyrotechnic clubs pay for the CPD services during the fireworks display events and to provide safety and security to life, property and the natural and cultural heritage.
PD appealed to the Environment and Resources Authority to send a team of experts to evaluate the damage caused by the fire and to prepare a report with recommended measures for its continued protection and conservation with special emphasis on future fireworks events “to prevent a future occurrence like this one”.
But the Environment Authority’s chairman, Conrad Borg Manche’, thanked the CPD for its action, saying the firemen had taken prompt action and worked hard for the past three days. Some 37,000litres of water were used in the operation, which is continuing.
He said the authority would be working to restore the site.
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