UCT management, students and staff left reeling in wake of fire

Several buildings including the Pearson, Smuts and Fuller halls, as well as the Jagger Library, were affected by the blaze. By far the biggest loss is the library, which housed invaluable collections.

Firefighters try, in vain, to extinguish a fire in the Jagger Library, at the University of Cape Town, after a forest fire came down the foothills of Table Mountain, setting university buildings alight in Cape Town, on 18 April 2021. Picture: Rodger Bosch/AFP

CAPE TOWN - Hundreds of firefighters continue to battle a blaze that is raging in central Cape Town.

The fire started on Sunday morning and spread to the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Thousands of UCT students had to evacuate on Sunday when the blaze that started on the slopes of Table Mountain spread to the campus, damaging several of its buildings.

The oldest university in South Africa’s usually bustling campus was now a ghost town.

Several buildings including the Pearson, Smuts and Fuller halls, as well as the Jagger Library, were affected by the blaze. By far the biggest loss is the library, which housed invaluable collections.

Mayor Dan Plato toured the campus with emergency officials.

“It was just flames everywhere. At one stage, I thought we were going to lose the entire campus,” he said.

The fire's not out yet and with the winds speed topping 47km/h, firefighters are still working flat out.

"We had a really bad experience. We have to go through deadlines, research," said UCT chemistry student Latief Nashed.

UCT management is still assessing the damage.

The University of Cape Town said that students affected by the fire were safe and were being catered for.

UCT vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng assured parents and families that students are being looked after.

"My advice to parents is don’t call them home. Of course, it’s closer to the university break, if you call them home, that’s fine, then they will come back after the university break which is due to start next week but usually, students don’t go home during the mid-term break because they want to catch up on work."

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Additional reporting by Sifiso Zulu.

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