UCT picks up the pieces after devastating fire

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The University of Cape Town has begun with a meticulous process of saving some items from the destroyed African Studies Collection after this week’s devastating fire.

The Jagger Library is one of several historic landmarks in Cape Town that was gutted in the blaze that started last week Sunday.

Fuelled by strong winds and excessive heat, the fire destroyed everything in its path.

Some of the tens of thousands of items that were destroyed in the Jagger Library are irreplaceable. They include, among others, manuscripts, maps and government documentation.

Now efforts are made to salvage what is left in a methodical way.

UCT Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng, says: “There’s a room where the materials are being dried out and there’s a place where the maps, for example, are being straightened to make sure what’s lost and what’s not lost but it’s really to make sure we recover as much as possible. There’s also video recordings of interviews and so on that we’ve managed to get the videos and the DVDs, the volunteers are cleaning them up to ensure we can continue to use them.”

UCT and other buildings damaged:

Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Buti Manamela, has visited the University. He has praised it for acting promptly to ensure that no lives were lost during the fire. Four thousand students had to be evacuated.

“We are committed through the leadership of our Minister (Dr Blade NzimandE) to make sure we help the university to get back on its feet, to resume with its academic programs but also, more importantly, to work towards fixing the buildings that were ravaged. I think also more importantly how we are going to be reimagining some of this new buildings going into the future to infuse modernity but connecting that with the history of our country and the history of the university,” adds Manamela.

Creecy thanks firefighters

The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment on the other hand paid a visit to Table Mountain National Park.

Minister Barbara Creecy thanked the firefighters for their mammoth effort in bringing the wildfire under control.

Around 1 000 firefighters were on duty throughout the week.

She says climate change is adding to fires burning more intense and often out of control.

“Our own weather stations are indicating that over the last few years we are recording record temperatures in April, temperatures that are far higher a few decades and certainly far higher than a century ago. In these circumstances of climate change, it becomes very important that we also look at some of our regulatory frameworks in terms of what kind of vegetation we will allow to grow in high-risk areas,” adds the Minister.

The fire has been contained and mop-up operations are expected to continue for the next few days.

The four firefighters who were injured in the line of duty have been discharged from hospital.