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Namibians recount UCT fire experience

2021-04-21  Paheja Siririka

Namibians recount UCT fire experience
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Several Namibian students at the illustrious University of Cape Town in South Africa recounted the devastating ordeal of a runaway fire that on Sunday overwhelmed parts of the city of Cape Town, including part of their campus.

Among the areas affected is the Rondebosch campus as well as the African Studies Library, founded in 1953.

Kumaaipurua Rukoro, a second-year Bachelor of Business Science student, specialising in analytics, told New Era the experience was horrific.

“I’m in sorrow right now and I feel traumatised by the tragic burning of our beautiful university,” he said.

When the fire broke out, Rukoro said, he was in his residence at Kopano, studying for an economics test that was scheduled for Monday this week.

“It is, however, comforting to know that I did not lose any belongings in the fire because my residence didn’t burn down,” added Rukoro.

Another student, Ester Pokolo, said the evacuation process happened quickly for them, as their side of the residence was slightly far away from the fire.

She was impressed with how the university quickly came to their aid by providing the necessities to pull through the experience.

“They (UCT) took care of us and made sure we have food, water and proper hotels that have Wi-Fi (internet). I haven’t returned to my residence to date, but we haven’t lost any belongings because it was not affected by the fire,” shared Pokolo.

The third-year business science student is, however, worried about the resumption of academic activities, because this week was scheduled as a test week.

Heather Kausch, a first-year arts student, said she and most people in her building started packing their belongings and tried to get as far away from the fire as possible, mainly because of the smoke in the air and the possible effects thereof. 

“I packed hurriedly because I didn’t expect to leave and went to a friend’s house. I was extremely worried that the building would be at risk and all of my possessions would be lost,” she recalled.

Kausch added that most international students there, including Namibians, have very few people to turn to in case of emergency.  “This was such a scary start to our first year but I am grateful to not have been affected too badly, and for all the emergency services for putting their own lives at risk to help,” she noted.

Meanwhile, a circular issued by UCT vice chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng notified students that the academic programme will be suspended until Friday. 

“Tomorrow, the department of student affairs will start managing the movement of students back to their residences from their emergency accommodation,” read the post on the university’s Facebook page.

She said the academic programme will resume on Monday. By mid-day yesterday, firefighters were still battling to bring the fire under control. 

A Tanzanian national appeared in court yesterday on charges of starting the fire. 

He was denied bail. 


2021-04-21  Paheja Siririka

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