By John Agou Wuoi
February 18, 2009 (JUBA) — More than 60 rooms and property of unknown value were destroyed by fire at Beijing Juba Hotel in Juba Southern Sudan on Wednesday. No casualties were reported.
- Firefighters are trying to quell the infernos from the roof of the burning hotel, Feb 18, 2009 (photo J. Agou Wuoi)
It was not immediately established what caused the fire but unidentified Beijing Juba Hotel staff said the fire which started at around 3 pm Sudan local time may have started in one of the rooms before spreading to other rooms. Unconfirmed reports also say the fire may have started as a result of an electrical fault. The manager of Beijing Juba Hotel was not immediately available to comment on the fire incident. Senior hotel staff (mainly Chinese) also declined to talk to the media.
The Director of Southern Sudan Fire Brigade, Lt. Gen Aru Maan Chot who was at the scene of fire told reporters that the cause of fire has not immediately been established but said investigations are underway. “I cannot tell you for certain what caused the fire but I can confirm that we will launched investigations as soon as we have put off the fire”, he said.
The firefighting team arrived at the scene an hour after the fire had started. Maj.Gen Maan blamed the slow response to the Beijing Juba Hotel fire on lack of firefighting equipment and resources all over Southern Sudan. “The Southern Sudan Firefighting Brigade has only two trucks which were donated to us by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army”, he added. Maj.Gen Maan said his firefighting department also lacks trained personnel to fight fire related incidents in Southern Sudan. The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) also sent two water tankers to reinforce efforts by the Southern Sudan Fire Brigade to put out the fire. The Southern Sudan Fire Brigade two trucks had earlier run out of water.
Some analysts argue that the fire took too long to put out because the building materials used to build the hotel are highly flammable. Many hotels and restaurants in Southern Sudan were built using pre-fabricated building materials. Some of the hotels owners have allegedly defied the Government of Southern Sudan directives stopping the construction of hotels using pre-fabricated materials.
Many of the hotels particularly in Juba, have not complied with fire-safety requirements because they lack advanced smoke or fire detectors as well as firefighting equipment and well-trained staff to handle fire outbreaks.
Beijing Juba Hotel, a Chinese-owned hotel is one of the best and expensive hotels located at the heart of Juba town next to the Southern Sudan Radio and Broadcasting Corporation. The hotel also hosts the Chinese Consulate in Southern Sudan.