BY REX MPHISA
BEITBRIDGE residents have rapped their municipality for lack of disaster preparedness following a series of fire incidents that the local authority failed to deal with.
Their anger was triggered by the Beitbridge Fire Brigade’s failure during the weekend to attend to a fire that broke out a few metres from its offices, resulting in one of the border town’s landmark buildings being destroyed.
Residents said failure to attend timeously to fire would result in investors shying away from the town at a time when they were pouring millions of dollars in infrastructural projects.
Beitbridge town clerk Loud Ramagkapola said the fire that gutted a complex that used to house Total Service Station and Last and First Beit Restaurant, now The Eat, was regrettable.
“The fire is an unfortunate incident and we regret that our fire engine is off the road.
“Our partners could not be at the site on time.
“We intend to push repairs of our fire engine.
“We need to also enforce and make it compulsory that every major building has fire hydrants,” Ramagkapola said.
“We cannot afford losing investment on issues we can deal with. We are also thinking of crowd funding for a fire engine.
“We regret yesterday’s fire incident and hope that it does not recur, he said.
The fire reduced to ashes several shops, which include two motor spare shops, a sewing mini-factory, a curio shop, a food kiosk, an architect’s office, and a car repair workshop.
The origins of the fire are still unknown, but the fire started soon after electricity was restored in the town after load shedding.
The owner of The Eat restaurant, Veronica Moyo, fainted twice after watching her investment being gutted down by the ferocious blaze.
“It is very pathetic. The town is growing at a fast rate with big installations coming up, but there are no systems for disaster preparedness like a functional fire brigade.
“Council is useless. Investors must think twice when deciding to invest in this town,” Beitbridge resident Sheikh Masvingo said.
In 2017, the Beitbridge Municipality unveiled a “state-of-the-art” fire tender it acquired for free from the United Kingdom’s Florian Project, a UK Fire Service humanitarian charity which works to promote the protection of life among communities worldwide.
It cost US$20 000 to ship the 1 000-litre truck with modern equipment. However, it has since broken down.
A used fire truck in Japan costs around US$18 000.
Residents urged the municipality to train fire fighters in the town.
Other residents called on the municipality to revive its arrangement with Musina Municipality which helped local fire fighters during fire incidents more than six times, including three which resulted in State warehouses at Customs and Excise department being burnt in suspected arson.