University Repairs After #UCTFire

VC Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng has released a statement to update all on their progress of recovery from the damage across UCT caused by the fire on 18 April 2021.

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On 18 April, the University of Cape Town experienced a horrible fire across their campus which destroyed many buildings and facilities, however, since then it has been the university's mission to repair the damage.

In the statement, VC Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng stated that all salvage activities had been concluded and the Special Collections basement has been cleared of materials.

Salvaged materials have been placed at various campus locations. The refrigeration containers will, in due course, be moved to other locations on Upper Campus.

By the end of August, the university hopes to install a temporary roof over the Jagger Library Reading Room, however, until then there will continue to be 24-hour security on site.

Access has been restricted to those who have undergone a safety induction and are wearing the required personal protective equipment.

Rebuilding the Jagger Library Reading Room will be part of the ongoing Libraries Masterplan, which is expected to take 18 months.

Temporary roofs have been installed and a waterproofing solution has been applied over the damaged areas of the HW Pearson Biological Sciences Building.

The Department of Biological Sciences staff and researchers have been granted limited access to the building, which is subject to current lockdown constraints.

Management expects the teaching laboratories on Levels One to Four to be repaired in the second half of 2021, while the Level Five Plant Conservation Unit will be repaired in 2022.

Initial findings suggested that 80% of the Upper Campus Residence and Fuller Hall were usable, which allowed most students to return on 7 May 2021. While approximately 50 students remain in alternative accommodation.

The majority of the repair work is now completed. The repairs included most of the roof tiling, with all internal repairs completed.

Some scaffolding and hoarding have remained in place to ensure the safety of staff and students.

Additional security and access control repair and reinstatement continue. Once all repairs have been done, all students will be able to return to these residences.

The following areas are experiencing repairs by UCT maintenance: AC Jordan, Botany Glass House, Molecular & Cell Biology, RW James, Maintenance Place, Maths, Tennis Club and the Sports Centre, as well as to street lighting and electrical cables damaged by the fire.

To prevent mudslides, work has been completed on the mountain slope behind the UCT Upper Campus. 

An assessment of the forest was completed on Upper Campus with advice from three independent arborists (also known as tree surgeons).

During the assessment, they identified the trees that were badly burnt or otherwise damaged that they would need to be removed.

Due to the highly specialised nature of the work, management appointed a conservation forester to manage the removal of the dead trees; and a harvesting company that specialises in clear-felling and has extensive experience working in mountainous areas and on slopes.

"The area is environmentally sensitive and requires that we ensure that we keep erosion to a minimum while conserving water", stated Prof Phakeng.

Depending on weather constraints, management expects this project to be completed sometime between August and mid-November this year.

Once the burnt trees have been cleared and removed, a tree inventory management strategy will begin, including mapping burnt and affected areas for replanting.

The viability of the vegetation that is still standing is being assessed, to review the species that have been damaged and see how many can be saved.

Once geotechnical inspection and drilling have taken place, they will use this information on the soil profiles to assist in the design for rebuilding the collapsed drainage channels in the earth dam.

La Grotta and Cadbol House in UCT’s Middle Campus have been damaged significantly. Asbestos has been removed from both buildings and the structures have been stabilised for restricted entry.

A full repair process is expected to take 12 months. Meanwhile, all cabling and wiring will be made safe, and shrubbery is being removed ahead of replacing the perimeter fencing.

Repairs are planned for Cambria House perimeter fencing, the Ivan Toms pergola, University House fencing, and Woolsack Residence roofing, control wiring, entrance gate and damaged fencing. Repairs to fencing may require the removal of shrubbery.

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