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Durban - Metrofile, the national documents storage company that manages more than 21 billion records on behalf of its customers, is counting the costs of the massive fire at its Pinetown facility, which has been blazing for eight straight days.
“All clients affected have been contacted and informed of their loss of records,” Guy Kimble, managing director of the Metrofile Records Management division, said on Thursday.
“Specific reports are now being prepared for each client so that they are able to identify the exact details of the records destroyed in the fire so that they can take the necessary steps as required by their business processes.”
The cause of the fire is still to be determined and Kimble said the company was working with the relevant authorities, as well as insurers, loss adjusters and assessors.
The warehouse, where documents for businesses, government departments and other entities are stored, caught alight on Thursday last week.
Firefighters were still on the scene but had not yet ventured inside, Pinetown Fire Department’s divisional commander, Ntuthuko Mathe, said.
Mathe said the steel cladding had been cut around the warehouse and a hydraulic lift crane was on standby to hose down the area from above.
Once the fire had been totally extinguished the site would be systematically cleared, said Mathe.
The two warehouses on the site total 4 500m2 and have racks as high as 12m. The documents are stored in cardboard boxes. The company operates during normal working hours and performs a shutdown procedure at the close of the business day.
Kimble said security staff were on site when the fire started.
He said there had also been a fire at the company’s Westmead facility in 2005, but “we have fully recovered from that fire”.
Kimble said the company had invoked its business continuity and disaster recovery plan. “A temporary response office has been established and all vital computer systems have been restored and are being used for the daily processing and operations in servicing our clients,” he said.
Ironically Metrofile, which operates from 26 facilities, reminded businesses in a press release it issued in February last year that the massive fire at the Sars offices in uMhlanga that year should prompt them to safeguard their documents.
The company’s Durban general manager at the time, Brad Dallas, had said the failure to securely store and back-up critical company data and records meant a company had to rebuild its database from scratch in the event of it being destroyed by a fire.
“Reconstituting company information and data could take months, or even years, which can have a potentially devastating impact on a business by delaying, hindering or even permanently ceasing productivity,” Dallas had said.
Metrofile said statistics from the UK revealed that 30 percent of all businesses that suffer from a major fire go out of business within a year, and 70 percent fail within five years, due to data loss.