Property worth half a million United States dollars was reduced to ashes when a staff residence at Mpilo Central Hospital housing junior and senior doctors together with scientists caught fire Wednesday evening.
The fire started around 10 pm and suspected to have been caused by an electrical fault.
The staff residence housed 39 families.
This is the third building to be destroyed by fire at the same hospital after two others in 2018 and 2019.
During the Wednesday incident one doctor suffered a broken ankle while another experienced smoke inhalation effects while trying to escape.
When CITE visited the hospital, fire fighters were still on the ground clearing the building while some traumatized doctors were still trying to gather together few belongings they managed to salvage from the inferno.
In an interview, one of the Doctors, Gabriel Magengezha, said he only heard a strong smell of smoke coming from within the building.
“The fire started around 22:30 hours; I was watching TV so I smelled a strong smoke like burning plastic, I ignored it. I thought someone, somewhere was doing something, so I ignored it,” said Magengezha.
“For about two minutes, I noticed that the smell was getting stronger, I went out into the corridor; I saw the whole corridor covered in smoke and the smell was even stronger but then at the corner by the switch board where the electricity mains are located, there were some yellowish flames.”
“I called everyone to go out, as there might be a fire going on, some people tried to pour water but nothing changed,” he said.
“When we saw that the fire was spreading very quickly, I went back to my room and tried to see what I could salvage, so by that time the electricity went off, I tried to light up my phone so I could see what to throw outside.”
He added that: “There were a lot of things in my place, I was panicking, I didn’t know where to start and the fire was spreading, everyone was minding their own business trying to save themselves and property. Everything got burnt, clothes, property, documents. The whole building was covered in flames in less than five minutes from where the fire started.”
Doctor Magengezha said everyone went out by one window as all exit points were alight.
“I jumped, fortunately enough there were some people on the ground who managed to catch me so that I could land safely on the ground,” he said.
“The whole ordeal was traumatic; you work so hard to acquire things but you lose them in a matter of seconds but fortunately enough no one died.”
He however said the fire brigade responded swiftly.
“But now the challenge was that the fire was spreading quickly; the whole building was covered in flames. I went back up but later to check around 2am, everything was reduced to ashes, it’s as if there was nothing before. We appealing for accommodation, food staff. If you have accommodation your mind will be at peace you can find ways to try to bounce back in this. I was supposed to be at work today but I can’t, I don’t have any clothes, even if I had clothes the trauma is too much,” he said.
Another doctor Shingirai Banguza added that the fire brigade did not have enough water to switch off the fire.
“They started looking for the hydrants but no one could locate the hydrants for them to get access to the water,” said Dr Banguza.
“Everyone came out without even a single blanket, no food, laptops, equipment, particulars, including the money, you know we just received our salaries, people had money in their rooms everything was burnt down,” he said.
“Initially it (the building) used to be for bachelors but you know with economic hardships, if you get married you have to stay with your family.”
Meanwhile, Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer, Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said they were appealing to those who can partner with the government to help rebuild the structure.
“This is actually the third fire that has happened in this hospital in the past few years. There is that building that you see and the other one over there and the fires seem to be quite depleted and a cost to the fiscus because to repair this you are going to need a lot of resources and it is a huge inconvenience to our staff members who are in shock from this experience,” said Professor Ngwenya.
“Those who can help can come in and partner the government and help us rebuild these structures so that our members of staff can have decent accommodation.”
He said the hospital was going to find alternative accommodation in local lodges for the affected doctors.
Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce, Raj Modi who also visited the Thursday morning said the government was going to do everything possible to reconstruct the structure.
“We all have to work together to make it work again; the government is going to do everything, whatever is possible for us to help them finish the reconstruction of this building and everything to make it back to normal again,” said Modi.
He said there was negligence in the maintenance of electricals at the Institution.
“I heard that there were some sparks that were coming out from the electrical mains and they reported to the authorities but I believe that’s where the fire started,” said Modi.
Bulawayo City Council (BCC) Acting Chief fire officer, Jabulani Ndlovu, said the fire was so intense that most of the evidence was destroyed.
“The fire was so intense that most of the evidence was destroyed but at the moment we are strongly suspecting an electrical fault,” said Ndlovu.
“At the moment we are dealing with declaring the building safe so that the assessors come in.”