Cape Town - Arrangements will be made to reschedule lectures at the University of Stellenbosch after one of its buildings went up in flames on Sunday.
“Alternative arrangements are being made to reschedule tests and classes, and accommodate staff elsewhere. An-nouncements regarding this will follow as soon as possible,” said dean of the faculty of economic and management sciences (EMS), Professor Stan du Plessis.
The fire broke out before 9am on Sunday at the Van der Sterr building, which houses several divisions of the university’s EMS faculty.
University spokesman Martin Viljoen said the fire damaged the roof and third floor of the north and east side of the building.
“The cause of the fire and the full extent of the damage are still unknown. The university’s insurers will launch a forensic investigation,” Viljoen said.
No staff or students were inside at the time of the fire.
“Contingency plans were activated immediately to manage the situation and to ensure that academic activities continued with as little disruption as possible,” said acting rector and vice-chancellor Professor Leopoldt van Huyssteen.
Student Thala Msutu said he was awoken by the crackling sound of wood burning as the roof of the Van der Sterr building collapsed.
At his residence, which was opposite the burning building, Msutu said he was also alerted to the fire when he received SMSes from friends.
“I woke up after 9am and saw all the messages on my phone. It looked like the fire had been burning for at least 30 minutes before that,” he said. “I looked out of my window and saw smoke, but I didn’t think it would become serious so I left to take a shower.”
Msutu said on his return he felt the heat of the fire inside his room.
“When I looked again, a part of the roof fell in and it looked like a little explosion. The flames were really big,” he said.
He left the building, fearing that the fire would spread.
Student Tinus Loots said that at about 9.50am plumes of smoke could be seen coming from the roof of the building.
“I went past the building and there were cops everywhere. I thought it would be under control.
“Ten minutes later, after I came past the building again, there was a small explosion and the flames were above the building,” he said.
Student Joshua Golan said that students were to have written accounting, statistics and economics tests in the building this week.
Stellenbosch fire chief Wayne Smith said damage to the building amounted to millions of rand.
“There has been excessive damage to the building. At this stage, it is uncertain what caused this fire. Police dogs were dispatched to ascertain what caused the fire,” he said.
In late 2010, a fire engulfed most of the roof and third floor of the Wilcocks Building on the Stellenbosch University main campus. No one was injured.
The building was later repaired at a cost of R58 million.