200 evacuated from lodge fire

200 evacuated from lodge fire

18 August 2008

published by www.iol.co.za

South Africa — Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge, in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, burnt down this morning.

About 200 people were evacuated from the luxury resort after a raging blaze swallowed one of the largest thatch buildings in southern Africa.

Guests staying in the timeshare buildings and chalets were woken up just after 3am and rushed out.

Although the cause of the fire has yet to be confirmed, it’s believed it started in the kitchen.

Only the main hotel rooms were spared.

Legacy Hotels managing director Paddy Brearley told The Star this morning the fire was “totally under control” and no guests were injured in the blaze.

“Buildings can be replaced, but lives can’t,” he said.

Describing the scene, Brearley said the giant thatch roof had collapsed inside the wall structure of the hotel’s main building, which also housed the bar, kitchen and a variety of stores.

“The hotel is surrounded by beautiful hills and it’s a cold morning,” Brearley said.

“There are smouldering ruins and the roof is gone. It was truly a magnificent building and probably the biggest thatch in southern Africa.”

Brearley said about 14 chalets were lost in the fire, and about the same number of timeshare units.

He said the buildings would be restored, and estimated the repairs would take three to four months.

The damage is set to run into millions.

Early estimates this morning put it at between R15- and R20-million.

Hotel patrons who called into talk radio shows described fleeing their rooms with only their car keys and cellphones.

Some, who were staying in buildings further from the flames, were lucky enough to be able to pack all their belongings.

Brearley said all guests had been relocated to a nearby resort.

“They’re having breakfast at Bakubung Bush Lodge,” he said.

The hotel was about 40 percent full. About 80 people were evacuated from the main hotel and about 120 from the timeshare sections, Brearley said.

Six fire brigades, including a team from nearby Sun City, arrived to extinguish the flames. Witnesses said they saw dozens of firefighters at the scene.

According to tourism website SA Places the thatch building was still undergoing major refurbishments.

It was reported the renovations began in June and would last about three months. They would include the upgrade of the reception area, restaurant and kitchen.

The resort is tucked between volcanic hills known as “place of the rock”.

The resort has 90 rooms with views of the nature

Investigations into the cause of the fire are still underway.

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