8 November 2017

South Africa: 'We Screamed, We Cried' - Restaurant Staff Relive Gordon's Bay Fire Drama

Employees at a Gordon's Bay restaurant are trying to pick up the pieces after a massive fire in the area destroyed the food outlet on Tuesday.

Speaking to News24 from her home in Nomzamo, Gloria Malefa Sotho said she worked at Mary-Ann's Emporium and Eatery for 12 years.

The building is one of four ravaged by the fire on Tuesday.

She recalled how the restaurant's 20 employees "cried and screamed" as they tried to evacuate the property on Tuesday afternoon.

"When we left there, [the taxi] was full of smoke. We couldn't breathe," she said.

She was concerned about her future after the restaurant was burnt down, adding that she was dependent on her job to provide for her son.

"He is doing Grade 12 this year and I was hoping that next year, if I am still working there, [that] I could do something for him," Sotho said.

"I can manage if I am still working, but if I am not working, it would be a problem."

Co-owner of the restaurant Mark Shearer said he and his partner Mary-Ann were empathetic towards staff members.

"We have to see [what] works for our staff. We have to see if we can keep them supported while we are busy finding our feet again. So, it's not going to be easy."

'It's not going to be easy'

He too recalled the moment that the fire engulfed the building.

It initially passed their property but, after the wind direction changed, the storehouse caught fire.

"The [fire] chief arrived and he said: 'Look, you need to evacuate. You need to get everyone off [the premises] here,' which we did. [The] staff got out and then we started loading the bakkie onto trailers and stuff to get personal belongings."

"Everything is gone... our warehouse [and the] school on the property. Some of [our staff] staying on the property, they've lost everything as well."

Shearer and his partner are bracing themselves for the task of restoring the business.

He said that, while the building was insured, they were concerned about the amount of lost stock which was not covered by insurance.

"It's not going to be easy because this whole building has to be demolished now. We can't just rebuild it in five minutes," he explained.

The City of Cape Town's Fire Rescue Services has confirmed that four buildings were destroyed in the blaze.

Wind speeds, of up to 65 km/h were recorded on Wednesday afternoon which hampered firefighting efforts in the area.

On Wednesday, Mayoral Committee for Safety and Security JP Smith said the estimated damage caused by the fire was roughly R34m.

"[The] final figure is likely to be quite a bit higher," he said.


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