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Sunday, December 5, 2021

UCT burns: Classes suspended for the next two days

NYAKALLO TEFU|

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has cancelled classes and tests on Monday and Tuesday following a fire that left students traumatised. 

A fire broke out on Sunday morning where the historic Mostert’s Mill in Mowbray was destroyed and also spread to the University of Cape Town’s upper and middle campus.

The fire spread rapidly from Rhodes Memorial and gutted historical UCT buildings including Fuller House student residence and the Jagger Library

Over 100 firefighters and emergency personnel were deployed to campus and to Table Mountain National Park. 

UCT vice chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said: “In light of the fire affecting the Rondebosch campus of the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the impact this is having on the university’s buildings as well as the evacuation of residences, all academic activities will be suspended tomorrow and on Tuesday.”

The fire prompted students to be evacuated from the University on Sunday morning with fears of their safety being compromised.

“For safety reasons, campus will be locked down and no one, other than emergency services, will be allowed access,” said Phakeng. 

Food and emergency accommodation has been arranged for the students.

UCT student representative council president Decian Dyer said students have been placed into nine hotels around the city.

In a statement released by the department of higher education, science and innovation, Minister Blade Nzimande said he was saddened that the fire destroyed the iconic African Studies Library houses and the ANC archives and records of underground publications.

Executive director of the UCT libraries Ujala Satgoor said an unexpected natural disaster struck at the heart of UCT Libraries today and I write this message with a deep sense of sorrow and loss at the havoc and devastation.

“Some of our valuable collections have been lost, however a full assessment can only be done once the building has been declared safe and we can enter the building. An official statement is forthcoming and until such time, I request that individuals refrain from speculation and conjecture,” said Satgoor.

Gift of the Givers said it will also assist by providing meals and the 4000 UCT students who have been left stranded.

The organisation’s founding director, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, said his organisation will be providing the stranded students with three meals a day.

Adding that Vodacom has given students free airtime and data so that they can contact their families.

Sooliman said the situation at UCT is so dire that some students have been left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Phakeng said they are all anxious about the extent of the damage to the Rondebosch campus and will provide updates as soon as they are able to do so. 

Students who were evacuated have been provided with food and accommodation.

“The necessary arrangements have also been made to accommodate our Muslim students. Food will be prepared at Old Mutual’s offices in Pinelands, Cape Town and from there it will be distributed to the locations where we are accommodating our students,” said Phakeng. 

The University also called on the greater community to assist with any donations to assist students and the school. 

“The public have been asked to donate any essential items and food which they may wish to contribute,” said Phakeng. 

Phakeng said officials must still assess the extend of the damage and the risks of smoke inhalation before allowing students to return to the university’s residences.

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