UCT Salvages Underway After Cape Fire

The University of Cape Town is working to salvage what's left after a runaway fire on Table Mountain National Park devastated part of the campus including a library and two residences. 

 

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The Cape Town wildfire that raged for days and has since been contained caused a lot of damage to the University of Cape Town campus which is said to take months to repair. 

The fire destroyed a large part of the Jagger Library at UCT which housed a large collection of African Studies artefacts which was started in 1953, this saw an outpour of grief across social media from many academics, alumni and students. 

“It’s actually very difficult to talk about it. If I think of the collection that we lost … the priceless, treasured collection … African Studies material, government publications – all of them were behind these doors and windows. My heart just sinks thinking about it,” said Hajiera Davids, a librarian in the published collections section of the library. 

Some of the materials which were destroyed include the majority of the African Studies Published Print Collection, African Studies Film Collection on DVD, UCT university calendars, some of the greatly used Government Publications documents from South Africa and across the continent and many more. 

Now the process of salvaging what is left in the building is underway at the university. This includes salvaging those materials that were stored in the basement which were affected by the water that penetrated the basement while firefighters worked to put out the fire. 

Executive director of libraries at UCT, Ujala Satgoor says that while the library workers were in the process of salvaging the remaining materials they did not anticipate the water damage. 

“We will have to remove all materials from the level one store because it is damp already and there is a lot of water,” she said, adding that they hoped to clear the materials as soon as possible to prevent mould from further damaging them. 

The damage to both residences, Smuts and Fuller Hall are also being assessed. 

It is said that Smuts Hall is not as damaged as Fuller, while Fuller sustained damage to it's roof and walls, Smuts was only damaged on one floor.

The Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng says that the university is unable to give students the amount of time that the repairs will take but, it is estimated to take months before the residencies are livable again.

Students from these residences are being accommodated for otherwise, while their residences are assessed and repaired. 

"In the same way, each of us can rebuild our own sense of purpose out of this tragedy. Our colleagues in the libraries have a long road ahead of them and many of us feel the devastation of the loss of this significant institutional asset, but we will walk this road to rebuild our facilities together," said VC Phakeng. 

Academic activity at UCT is said to resume on Monday, 26 April after classes were suspended last week. 

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