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Fire a 'Constant Concern' in S. Sudan Hotels, Managers Say

  • Mugume Davis Rwakaringi

A week after fire tore through the South Sudan Hotel in Juba, Mel Garang Yout walked amid the rubble, surveying the damage and watching as salvage workers move burnt timber and charred rubble from the roof of the VIP section of the hotel.

The hotel suffered some 2.5 million South Sudanese pounds' worth of damage, not including guests' property, when fire ripped through it last Wednesday, said Yout.

But it didn't have to be this way, he said: the damage would have been far less extensive if the fire brigade were better equipped and had arrived within minutes of the first call going out, he told VOA News.

“They came after one hour or two hours... everything was damaged," Yout said.

"They are really very poor. They brought with them one car and that car didn’t have water. So we ran to go and look for the water tank to supply them," he said.

At another Juba hotel, the Quality Hotel, manager Yemane Binega said fire is a constant concern, partly because all hotels in Juba have to use generators for some of their power supply.

An electrical short circuit when the South Sudan Hotel switched from its generator to main power is believed to have been what triggered the fire there.

Binega said the Quality Hotel has invested in fire extinguishers and blankets. He recommended that business owners store fuel at a safe distance from open flames, such as in the kitchen, and other places where fire could break out.

New York Hotel manager Eyob Ghebrekristos said his establishment has spent more than 11,000 pounds on fire extinguishers.

“We have fire extinguishers in our generator areas, in the kitchen, in the rooms where we accommodate guests and in the bar," he said.

The extinguishers are inspected annually by the fire brigade, Ghebrekristos said.

"They do come here. They renew the licences and they check the fire extinguishers," he said.

Central Equatoria State Fire Brigade director, Colonel John Domillian, declined to comment for this story, but in an earlier interview said the fire department responded immediately to the South Sudan Hotel fire.

He acknowledged his team is short on equipment and said they have asked the government for more.