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Fire guts NC school hostel

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The fire extinguishers at Victoria West Combined School were dysfunctional and that the nearest fire truck was out of commission

HELP: Residents of Victoria West were able to limit the damage caused by a fire that gutted the Victoria West Combined School hostel on Thursday afternoon. Picture: Social Media

WHILE residents of Victoria West were able to limit the damage caused by a fire that gutted a local school hostel, the blaze has become the subject of a police investigation and has raised serious questions regarding safety.

The DA in the Province has claimed that the fire extinguishers at Victoria West Combined School were dysfunctional and that the nearest fire truck was out of commission.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Northern Cape Department of Education spokesperson, Geoffrey van der Merwe, confirmed that the top floor of the girls’ residence at the school had been completely destroyed by a fire on Thursday afternoon and that a team from the department would be visiting the site to evaluate the damage.

“We have opened a case with the SAPS to investigate the cause of the fire,” Van der Merwe said. “A team from the department will assess the extent of the damage, which will determine the contingency plans to accommodate pupils at the start of the third term.”

Van der Merwe also thanked residents who helped extinguish the fire, especially the farmers in the area.

“As a department, we are very concerned about the trend that is currently developing in the Pixley ka Seme District, where we have seen two hostels and two schools destroyed in fires over the past five years,” he added.

“We are appealing to members of the public to assist the department to protect and guard all our institutions of learning against any form of vandalism.

“We further call on anyone with information to come forward and assist the SAPS with their investigation.”

Meanwhile, DA MPL Safiyia Stanfley said that the party would refer the alleged misallocation of disaster funding by Ubuntu Municipality to the Municipal Public Account Committee (MPAC) and thanked local residents for helping to limit the damage caused by the fire.

“The fire damage would have been drastically reduced had a fire truck been available,” she said. “Ironically, the municipality’s fire truck has been stuck in Loxton since July 2016 after the fire truck left Victoria West to attend to a fire at the JJ Booysen Secondary School in Loxton.”

According to Stanfley, this fire truck got stuck halfway between Victoria West and Loxton and the school burnt to the ground.

“The fire truck was towed to Loxton, where it has remained without any maintenance ever since, rendering the fire brigade non-operational.

“It is increasingly clear that there is extensive corruption within Ubuntu Municipality and that funds, especially those intended for disaster response, are not properly allocated.

“The auditor-general will be visiting Ubuntu Municipality next week in order to have discussions with the municipal leadership, including DA councillor Hugo Vorster, who is also the chairperson of MPAC, regarding unauthorised expenditure totaling R8 million.

“Vorster will also raise the matter of disaster funds with the AG.”