The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services quickly extinguished a fire at the Athlone train station after unknown vagrants allegedly set it on fire. Picture: Screen grab
The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services quickly extinguished a fire at the Athlone train station after unknown vagrants allegedly set it on fire. Picture: Screen grab

Vagrants blamed for blaze at Athlone train station

By Nomalanga Tshuma Time of article published Jul 21, 2021

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Cape Town - Athlone train station suffered extensive damage to its roof on Monday afternoon in a fire that has been blamed on vagrants who were living in the deserted building.

The City’s Fire and Rescue Services said that after extinguishing the flames that had engulfed the vacant ticket office, they realised that the fire was started by one of the homeless people living there.

Spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said: “We received a call for the assistance of a building alight in Aden Avenue, Athlone at about 3.36pm on Monday. The building turned out to be the Metrorail ticket office, which was vacant.

“The inside of the building was severely affected by fire, heat and smoke, with the roof sustaining most of the damage. Firefighters who were battling the blaze noticed that a large quantity of rubbish inside the structure had also been set alight. One person, a woman, suffered from smoke inhalation and was treated by the fire service medics but later absconded.”

“Fire crews from Salt River and Ottery were able to extinguish at 4.49pm. To us, it appears that someone who stayed in the vacant building set the fire,” said Carelse.

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said: “The fire damaged a disused structure at Athlone Station. The structure had been boarded up but vagrants managed to break in. While no injuries were reported, Prasa’s facilities division will assess the structure and decide on its future use.”

DA provincial spokesperson on Transport and Public Works Ricardo Mackenzie lambasted the incident saying that it was another indictment of Prasa’s inability to ensure safe and capable rail infrastructure in the Western Cape.

“This recent incident adds to the increased concerns regarding the integrity of rail infrastructure, particularly that for which the national government is responsible in Cape Town. It further shows that Prasa has been unable to assist in the relocation of vagrants and dwellers which inhibit the proper functioning of train services. Right now, there are still around 7 844 dwellings on the Central Line and that number is likely to climb if urgent action is not taken,” said Mackenzie.

“In the briefing to the Standing Committee on June 22, Prasa outlined security interventions that accounted for visibility and presence, partnerships with other governmental bodies.

“To date, no progress has been made in this regard. I will be submitting parliamentary questions to enquire about the progress being made regarding security at Prasa’s properties and the current state of rail security management in the province.”

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