Two trains set alight at Cape Town Railway Station, CBD shrouded in smoke
Two trains were set alight at the Cape Town railway station on Sunday afternoon, 2 April 2019, leaving Cape Town CBD covered in smoke. At 15h51 on Sunday, the City of Cape Town's Fire and Rescue Services received a call from someone reporting that a train was alight at the station. Three fire engines, one water tanker, a rescue vehicle and 19 staff were dispatched to investigate the scene and tackle the blaze. "Upon arrival, the officer in charge discovered two trains with five carriages each alight on Platform 12," said the city's fire and rescue spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse. The cause of the fire is unknown and no injuries have been reported.
Two weeks ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled two new trains at Cape Town station where he was briefed on Prasa's efforts to improve commuter services and to stimulate economic activity and industrialisation through its modernisation programme.
According to a statement from Prasa, a fire at the Cape Town station was reported to have started just before 16h00 on Easter Sunday, effectively closing down two platforms. By 19h00 the fire had been contained. Prasa confirmed two coaches were destroyed, the damage is estimated to be about R33-million. Alongside the two destroyed coaches, 300m of cable needed for manual train control was damaged. Cape Town train services were halted, but have resumed. There were no reports of injury to staff or commuters. “Initial indications point to arson as the cause of the fires,” said Sipho Sithole, Prasa’s group chief strategy officer. “The fires are a clear setback to Metrorail Western Cape.”
GroundUp reported on Tuesday morning, two days after the fire, that “the smell of charred iron and smoke still filled the station” where commuters were making their way to work.
What are the officials saying? The ANC in the Western Cape described the fire as a crime perpetrated on the people. ANC provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs said, “The perpetrators should be charged, brought to court, convicted and given the maximum prison sentences that can be imposed for these crimes. A clear message must be sent out that our nation will not allow sabotage to go unpunished.”
Mayor of Cape Town Dan Plato immediately pointed out that the rail network was not the local or provincial government. Plato said that while the city, Prasa and the provincial government had formed the Rail Enforcement Unit, the rail network was primarily the responsibility of the national government.
Despite the unit seeing successes, “clearly Prasa and Metrorail need to invest much more to keep our trains and commuters safe. Not doing so is outright negligence”, said Plato.
One person has been arrested and is due to appear in court soon.
Source: IOL and Daily Maverick