Insurers bracing for claims due to Table Mountain fires

Insurers bracing for claims due to Table Mountain fires


CAPE TOWN – THERE is no tally yet of the numerous insurance claims likely to arise from the devastating fires that raged on Table Mountain yesterday and burnt down several UCT buildings and other structures.

City of Cape Town spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said yesterday morning that several buildings at UCT, including the library and student accommodation buildings, the Rhodes Memorial and its restaurant, the Mostert Mill historic windmill, other structures and an unknown number of vehicles had been destroyed.

He said all available resources to prevent loss of life and further damage, including hundreds of firefighters from around the city and four helicopters, had been mobilised by the City and SA National Parks, which controls the mountain land.

The fire started on Sunday morning, but the helicopters were grounded yesterday by the strong wind.

By yesterday morning the fire was burning on the outskirts of the central business district near Vredehoek, and schools and residents in the vicinity had to be evacuated.

He said investigations into the cause of the fire were still under way, but one man had been arrested in connection with starting an uncontrolled fire on the mountain.

Cape Town Heritage Trust spokesperson Laura Robinson said that while the insurance losses were likely to run into many millions of rand and could not be ascertained at this stage, some government-owned historic buildings, such as Mostert Mill, would cost a great deal to be restored.

The university had been evacuated and no lives had been lost. Updates on the fire damage were still streaming in yesterday, she said.

However, she said that the losses at the university’s Jagger Library to its valuable and significant collections of historic archival documents and books were incalculable as these could not be replaced.

She said the Cape Town Heritage Foundation held funding in trust for the restoration of historic buildings in such situations, where donations could be made.

Santam, a leading insurer, said yesterday that it was too early to assess the value of claims likely to arise from the fire, but their claims team was on standby to assist policyholders.

“We anticipate claims notifications for fire and smoke damage to reach us from today onwards, and have already alerted some of our service providers who provide cleaning and restoration services to be readily available.

“We are also communicating with our brokers with advice and information they can share with clients to clean their property, where there was a low level of smoke damage, as well as the necessary claims process to be followed for extensive smoke and fire damage,” said Fanus Coetzee, head of claims at Santam.

He said the conditions under which the firefighters had to battle the fire had been exacerbated by the prevailing hot and dry weather, and since early yesterday morning the south-eastery wind had fuelled the fire in the direction of the City Bowl.

He said the Western Cape experienced a higher than normal fire risk between December and April each year, and exceedingly high temperatures and strong winds could increase the probability of further fire outbreaks.

He said 99 percent of all fires were the result of human negligence.

Coetzee said residents could reduce the risk of fire by ensuring their house was properly maintained and had surge protection and early warning systems, and that all fire regulations were adhered to, including the maintenance of fire equipment, fire breaks and the installation of sprinkler systems.

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