Fire breaks out at V&A Waterfront

It’s business as usual at the V&A Waterfront after a fire broke out in the basement last week Wednesday, November 14.
Waterfront spokesperson Donald Kau said an electrical substation caught alight in the basement of the Victoria Wharf shopping centre.

“We believe it was due to overheating. The fire was contained to the immediate area in the basement of the shopping centre and there was no structural damage to the area. The damage was limited to cabling and distribution boards.”

He said most of the tenants were trading normally, including Pick n Pay, which was nearest to the fire. “We have had some power fluctuations with the power supply as we switch between back-up generators to normal electrical supply. The rest of the V&A is operating normally.”

Mr Kau said nobody was injured and the mall was evacuated due to smoke, however, people who were at the mall say that the space was not evacuated, and that the Waterfront staff did not want to set off the fire alarm without permission from management.

A video posted on Facebook by JP Terblanche at the Waterfront on the day of the fire showed dense smoke in the mall.
In the video, he said: “I have requested the fire alarm to go off. There is a transformer on fire, I believe at the bottom. You cannot breathe inside here.

I have spoken to the security management. They refuse to put on the alarm and said someone is already on their way.
They are not evacuating the building, they are not closing down the stuff – it’s only the bottom floor. People are just walking through. They (the staff) strictly refused to put on the fire alarm. This has been continuing for half an hour already. I want to know what’s going on. They cannot give me answers.”

Donna Wong wrote that she was stuck in the lift from 6pm till 6.20pm. “The help button in the lift did not work and I was struggling with smoke inhalation! Was so scary. No security attempted to call for help. So disappointed at V&A Waterfront as it didn’t seem at all prepared.”

Mr Kau said the fire was isolated to a small area in the basement section of the mall and was “rapidly” brought under control by the City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services.

“What the visitors experienced is the partial evacuation of a section of mall when the fire started. In this instance, alarms were activated in the area closest to the incident and the public would have been directed by our security to areas of safety via designated exits away from the incident and the smoke that would have travelled into the upper areas of the mall.”

He said the safety and evacuation procedures such as the triggering of alarms are managed by trained personnel on site throughout the V&A Waterfront and would not be left to the public to activate.

“The same applies to operating lifts during an emergency… the opening of these doors should be left to trained personnel who work with emergency services to assist the public during emergencies.”

Fire and rescue service spokesperson Theo Layne said the cause of the fire was an electrical short circuit. Mr Layne said there was no need for evacuation.

“The assessment of the fire situation was done by the first arriving crews and if there was a need to initiate evacuations then they would definitely have done so.”