By Mkhululi Ncube
A woman was yesterday rushed to hospital after inhaling smoke while scores were evacuated from the 24-storey National Railways of Zimbabwe’s Parkade Centre in Bulawayo’s city centre following a fire incident.
A preliminary report shows the fire that broke out around 4PM on the 5th floor that is occupied by Lupane State University, could have been caused by an electric fault.
The fire brigade observed that there was plenty of smoke although the fire only destroyed two laptops, two cellphones, Z$140 and R20 with a combined value of about US$ 2 000.
The cellphones and laptops were connected to an electrical adaptor which was tapping power from a power wall outlet which was found at an “on” position.
The building houses NRZ offices, banks and shops.
There was commotion as fire engines sped through the city to attend to the fire and members of the public shot pictures as the drama unfolded.
LSU students who resumed studies two weeks ago were among those who stampeded for the exits in panic.
An employee at the university who spoke on condition of anonymity said there was an explosion in one of the classrooms.
“There was widespread panic. I’m not sure if someone called the Fire Brigade or they were alerted by the fire alarm. It was scary and everything happened so fast,” said the source.
A tenant at the building, Ms Thobekani Mkhwananzi, said security officers knocked on doors all over the building ordering everyone to leave.
“We were shocked when guards told us to vacate the building because there was fire. The message was just close and go out. It was a scary moment and fire alarms added to the confusion and panic,” she said.
Acting Bulawayo chief fire officer Mr Linos Phiri urged the public to be cautious when using electrical gadgets.
“It was a small fire and when we got there the fire had been already put out. Electrical gadgets should not be left unattended over a long time even a cellphone should be charged under supervision. Over time these gadgets develop faults like overheating which can cause fire,” said Mr Phiri.
“Electrical sockets are on the wall with curtains hanging just above meaning an explosion of an electrical gadget can lead to serious fires. I urge the public to make sure that when they charge electrical gadgets, they are nearby to monitor them. Some charge cellphones overnight, it poses the same risk as well,” he said.
LSU marketing and communications director Mr Zwelithini Dlamini could not get details of the incident as he was in Lupane.
“l am sorry l am not getting any information about the fire incident. All my contacts have knocked off and they are professing ignorance about the fire,” said Mr Dlamini.
In 2015 a woman and a technician who was trying to rescue her from a jammed elevator car plunged to their death from the eighth floor of the building. The technician from Schindler Lifts had been called to assist the trapped woman, who was an NRZ employee in the accounts department. The Chronicle