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UCT students, staff evacuated as out of control fire rages at Rhodes Memorial


The university said that all students have been evacuated from campus by emergency services support staff.

Picture: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus

A FIRE alarm cued students to evacuate some of their residences at the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Sunday afternoon, after a fire spread through the campus.

UCT said all students have been evacuated from campus by emergency services support staff, and they have been taken to predetermined locations.

UCT said they will continue to work with and support SANParks and the City of Cape Town to extinguish the fire.

UCT SRC chairperson Declan Dyer said the priority now was to evacuate students, and get them to a safe place, where they could consolidate and sort out any additional off-campus residences to accommodate those who were evacuated.

Working on Fire general manager Melany Duthie-Surtie said the Department of Forestry Fisheries and Environment, Working on Fire in the Western Cape has dispatched 58 firefighters, four choppers, and a spotter to assist the Table Mountain National Park in the suppression effort of the De Waal Drive fire that broke out this morning in the City of Cape Town.

Duthie-Surtie said the dispatched teams were working on the left flank of the fire when the wind drastically changed directions and the fire spiralled out of control burning toward Newlands.

She said Rhodes Memorial and some parts of Newlands were under extreme threats and evacuations were under way.

Working on Fire remains on high alert and are ready to respond to the call to assist with suppressing the fire, Duthie-Surtie said. Working on Fire choppers are also taking turns water bombing flames within the left flank as thick smoke has engulfed the right flank.

Duthie-Surtie urged firefighters working in the area to remember the safety protocol that they have been trained in.

“The fire is bad, please remember to always know where your escape route are, because the last thing we want is an injury or fatality. We want you to work hard and protect properties and lives,” she said.

“We are not working alone, we are working with the partners, we urge the community at large to be vigilant and safe at all times. They should follow the guidelines closely from the authorities who want to keep them safe.”

The City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre said that they are closely monitoring the fire.

Spokesperson Charlotte Powell said that at this stage, there is no cause to evacuate residents but have urged residents to:

  • Close all windows and doors to prevent draft and reduce heat.
  • Should there be an immediate threat to your property, damp down your garden using a hose or irrigation system.
  • Wildfire creates smoky conditions, so it’s important for everyone to reduce exposure to smoke.
  • Wildfire smoke irritates your eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Children, pregnant women, people living with asthma and heart disease need to be especially careful.
  • When passing through a smoked filled area ,keep low to avoid the rising smoke.
  • Try to cover your face with a damp cloth or handkerchief.

The M3 inbound between Rhodes Drive and Union Avenue is closed to traffic as well as access roads from Woolsack Drive and Princess Ann Ave into the M3.

The M3 outbound is closed at Hospital Bend with traffic being diverted towards the N2.

Cape Argus

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