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Durban - The investigation into the blaze at a document storage warehouse in Westmead could take months due to the extent of the damage.
Acting fire head for the eThekwini region, Mark te Water, was on the scene on Sunday.
He said it was too early to determine the cause of Friday evening’s fire at Metrofile in Clubhouse Place, which destroyed millions of important records.
“It would be inappropriate to jump to conclusions at this stage.
“Only a complete investigation could give us a clear understanding on the root cause of the inferno.
“The investigation could take months due to the extent of the damage,” he said.
Te Water praised his team for their efforts in fighting the raging blaze under trying conditions. Firefighters were still at work on Sunday making sure the blaze did not flare up.
“I was told the blaze had touched the ceiling (on Friday),” he said.
“They had to work against the wind because the building is located on a hill.
“The strategy has always been to save what is savable,” he said.
At midday on Sunday, a pall of smoke hung over the facility and flames were still visible inside it. Two firemen on a ladder were cutting sheet metal cladding from the building.
“The aim is to ventilate and get inside to extinguish the flames. I expect the team to be here for another week.
“This has been one of the biggest operations. The fire started on the northern shed, destroying mountains of files,” Te Water said.
It has been reported that millions of government documents, including SAPS and SA Social Services files, as well as bank and private documents, were destroyed in the fire.
Partially burnt Absa bank deposit slips and other documents were found floating in the puddles left by the fire hoses.
Kagiso Ntanga, a spokeswoman for Technology Innovative Agency, which had files stored at the facility, was surprised when asked about the documents.
“I have not heard that the facility had burnt down.
“I know that our files were scanned in to an electronic system then hard copies had been stored somewhere,” Ntanga said.
SAPS spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said a case of arson had been opened.
He could not confirm claims that the SAPS stored files at the facility.