Part of new EL library collapses

A section of the new multimillion-rand university library that is being built by three Eastern Cape universities collapsed on the weekend.

SETBACK: A section of the R220-million university library being built by three Eastern Cape universities in East London’s Church Street collapsed over the weekend, causing damage to an accounting department building Picture: RANDELL ROSKRUGE

The University of Fort Hare (UFH) yesterday confirmed that a “small” portion of brickwork had collapsed in the collaborative library for 18000 students which is under construction in East London’s Church Street.

The damage is to the university’s department of accounting.

The incident happened at about 2am on Sunday.

The R200-million library is a joint venture between UFH, Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and the University of South Africa (Unisa).

In 2014 the Dispatch reported that the Department of Higher Education and Training would contribute R120-million to the construction, Unisa R50-million, UFH R30-million and WSU R20-million.

UFH spokesman Mawande Mrashula said the incident was caused by a “strong gale-force” wind over the weekend.

“We are pleased to announce that fortunately there were no injuries.

“The building that suffered damage was the Nkuhlu building, which was minimally affected.

“It houses the department of accounting.

“It will be repaired by next week,” said Mrashula.

The Dispatch checked with the SA Weather Service and Eastern Cape spokesman Garth Sampson said their East London records for that time showed the wind was between 20km/h to 30km/h, which is known as a “moderate to fresh” breeze. He said there was no “gale-force” wind, which would have had to be twice that speed, moving at 62km/h and faster.

When the Dispatch arrived yesterday morning, students and staff were being barred from entering the damaged building.

Security officers said they were instructed not to let anyone inside.

A peek into the affected building revealed that a section of the ceiling had caved in.

Accounting students who said they were using the affected building to study said they were cautioned via e-mail not to use the building as it was not safe.

The e-mail read: “Please do not use the Nkuhlu Building for studying until further notice. E-mail the lecturers or academic trainees directly to make arrangements for consulting as we will have to use venues in the other buildings to meet. The new building has collapsed on the pwc venue and computer lab so it’s not safe.”

Mrashula said the university had scheduled “monitoring and technical meetings, of which the contractor is expected to detail a report as liability remains with them”.

He said the incident would not affect the projected completion date of the collaborative library, which is March 2018.

“As we speak the progress on the site stands at 60%.”

WSU spokeswoman Yonela Tukwayo said she was unable to comment on the incident yesterday because she did not have the facts yet.

The spokeswoman for Unisa’s Eastern Cape region, Nontsikelelo Gasa, said they were still investigating the matter and were unable to comment yesterday.

The library will cater for 18000 students, who will have access to e-resources, a multimedia centre and reading and study areas. — arethal@dispatch.co.za

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