The roof above eight rooms on the third floor of Huis ten Bosch residence at Stellenbosch University (SU) was destroyed when a fire broke out around 19:00 on Monday evening (12 August 2019). All 164 residents of Huis ten Bosch were evacuated safely and provided with alternative accommodation.
An assessor is expected to visit Huis ten Bosch today (Tuesday, 13 August) to evaluate the damage and then initiate the process for repairing the residence. Some of the residents will not be able to return to their rooms for the rest of this year, and alternative accommodation will be provided for them.
Prof Wim de Villiers, SU’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, said the cause of fire is still unknown.
“We feel relieved and grateful that all the students are safe. A sincere thank you to the Stellenbosch emergency services that rallied to our aid and provided various forms of assistance during the fire. By 20:30 the fire had been brought under control,” Prof De Villiers said.
One student was treated for burn wounds to her hands, and another for smoke inhalation at the Stellenbosch Hospital. Both students are doing well.
After evacuating the building, residents gathered at the nearby Wilgenhof residence, where Prof De Villiers reassured them that their safety was SU’s first priority. Alternative accommodation was arranged for them and the University is committed to providing comprehensive support.
The necessary counselling and support services are already in place for students. The 24-hour crisis service of the University’s Centre for Student Counselling and Development (CSCD), in collaboration with ER24, was activated (tel: 010 205 3032), and staff were deployed to the recreational hall of Monica residence.
Due to smoke and water damage, residents could not return to Huis ten Bosch on Monday evening, but alternative overnight accommodation was provided in other residences. Security was deployed, and where it was safe to do so on the first and second floors, residents were escorted through Huis ten Bosch to collect their personal belongings before retiring for the night.
“The University management convened a contingency committee to deal with the fire and its aftermath. Our immediate priorities are the safety and wellbeing of students and staff, but we also discussed academic support for the students of Huis ten Bosch in the days and weeks to come,” said Prof De Villiers.
“My colleagues and I want to commend the residents and leaders of Huis ten Bosch for their bravery during this emergency. Because fire drills in SU residences are frequently held, the Huis ten Bosch residents responded quickly, calmly and efficiently when the fire alarm was activated,” Prof De Villiers added.
He thanked the entire student community who united during adversity and gave their support and assistance to the residents of Huis ten Bosch, as well as staff members who responded quickly to the unfolding situation on Monday evening.
“We would also like to thank members of the Stellenbosch community for offering support and assistance. Needs are being assessed and we will communicate further,” said Prof De Villiers.
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