Black smoke billowed above Juba Wednesday as fire tore through the South Sudan Hotel in the Buluk area, causing major damage but no injuries or deaths.
The fire, which the hotel's food and beverage supervisor, Flora Senya Khamis, said was caused by an electrical short that ignited curtains in a lounge room, started at around 11:00 am and ripped through 31 rooms, including a dining hall, before it was put out by South Sudanese and United Nations fire fighters.
Nothing was salvageable from the rooms that were gutted by the fire, said Khamis.
Hotel manager Mer Garang confirmed that the fire was sparked by an electrical short circuit, caused when the hotel was shifting from generator power to mains power.
Mathew Mayour, Secretary-General of the National Congress Party in South Sudan, who lives at the hotel, said he rushed from his office to rescue his belongings when he heard about the fire.
“I was in my office and there was a call from somebody in the hotel, saying that 'there is a burning in your rooms and your things are inside and the keys were not found,'" he said.
"So I rushed in... I managed to rescue my things in my rooms although I lost two bags to boys who were just helping us and decided to snatch two bags,” he said.
A staff supervisor at the hotel, Gore Atiya, who was among people trying to salvage property from the burning rooms, said the damage to the hotel was made worse by the slow response by the Juba fire brigade. Khamis said the city's firefighters arrived at the scene of the blaze only after a dozen rooms had been totally burnt.
"If there was a quick response from the fire brigade, the fire would not have spread but because they came late, the fire goes very fast in the first floor which makes a lot of detriment and a lot of loss," Atiya said.
But Central Equatoria State Fire Brigade Chief, John Domilian Daniel, said fire fighters rushed to the scene as soon as the alarm was sounded but were hampered once there by the fact that they only had one truck, had to get water for their pumps from a nearby river, and were dealing with a fire that was already large when they arrived.
Domilian has asked the government to better equip the fire brigade so that it is better placed to respond to fire emergencies in the rapidly growing city of Juba.
It was unclear if the hotel would be able to reopen.