A team of firefighters is being called in to help contain the raging fire at a government-owned building in Gauteng.
On Wednesday, The Bank of Lisbon building, which houses the offices of Gauteng Health, Human Settlements and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Departments, caught fire.
The blaze claimed the lives of three firefighters in the process.
“The fire is still raging and we have asked for reinforcements from Tshwane and Ekurhuleni. We have been reassured that the fire is being contained. We are aware that neighbouring buildings are affected by the smoke,” said the Gauteng Infrastructure MEC Jacob Mamabolo.
The MEC made the announcement when he gave an update on plans to contain the fire.
A total of 1 500 employees who work at the building were successfully evacuated.
Mamabolo said most of the workers who were admitted to the hospital have since been released.
“Doctors have assured us that none of them had serious injuries,” said Mamabolo.
Safety of the building
The MEC said a report which was presented on 27 August 2018 revealed that the building was not compliant with occupational health and safety standards.
“Most of these government buildings are very old and don't comply with health and safety standards and we are aware of this,” said the MEC.
Mamabolo said the building only had 21% compliance against the norm of 85%.
“We received conditional assessments last week on eight buildings belonging to government. We are acting on the report. The process of moving employees from The Bank of Lisbon had already started by 7 March this year.
“We began the procurement process for Human Settlements and Cogta. The floors that were condemned by the Labour Department were from the ground floor up to the 10th floor,” said the MEC.
According to Mamabolo, plans to relocate workers who occupied the non-compliant floors were already being made in July this year.
Mamabolo said investigations into the cause of the fire are underway.
“We believe that there must be a proper investigation into the cause of the fire. There shouldn't be speculation on the matter.”
Addressing issues of government office accommodation, the MEC said it is each department’s prerogative to approach the Infrastructure Department with its specific needs.
“The procedure has always been that departments must approach the department with their accommodation needs. This needs to change as it is reactive,” said Mamabolo.
The MEC said the department is currently busy with the Kopanong Precinct project, which started in 2001. This R16 billion project will see 18 government buildings being upgraded.
Mamabolo said the Infrastructure Department is due to meet with engineers later today. - SAnews.gov.za