Nqobile Tshili/ Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Reporters
SCORES of guests had to be evacuated from Rainbow Hotel in Bulawayo yesterday following a fire — caused by an electric fault – that left an electrician severely injured.
Two of his colleagues also sustained minor injuries during the incident which occurred at around 2.50PM.
A majority of Cabinet Ministers that are attending a three-day pre-budget seminar at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in the city are guests at the hotel.
Witnesses said the electrician’s clothes caught fire, burning him in the process as he and his colleagues tried to attend to the fault on the hotel’s substation in the basement.
He was rushed half naked to Galen House, just across the road, and was later transferred to the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) with his colleagues.
There was a power blackout that lasted for almost 30 minutes in the city centre following the incident.
Rainbow Tourism Group Corporate Communications and Innovations Manager, Ms Pride Khumbula, said there was an electrical fault in the basement of the hotel which resulted in the loss of power.
“This caused smoke to infiltrate the lower floors of the hotel. As a precaution all guests and staff were evacuated. Three technicians who were working on the fault were injured and transported to United Bulawayo Hospitals. They are, however, in stable condition. Currently Zesa technicians are working to restore power back to the hotel,” said Ms Khumbula.
Hotel staff evacuated guests from the building as smoke filtered from the basement.
Among the evacuated was a toddler that had been left in one of the rooms by a Member of Parliament.
The Chronicle visited the hotel and found a crowd watching a fire brigade team rushing into the building to extinguish the fire.
Some of the MPs who were booked at the hotel were stranded as the building was momentarily declared out of bounds for guests.
Business executives such as Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke were also part of the stranded guests.
One of the hotel’s guests said: “I could tell there was something that was burning but I didn’t think it could be this serious. The hotel staff started coming to our rooms to inform us to leave the building,” said one of the guests.
Later the Rainbow Hotel staff called their clients to the parking lot where they explained the problem. The hotel staff also conducted a roll call to establish if there was anyone who was injured.
Acting Bulawayo Chief Fire Officer Mr Edward Phiri said the fire could have been caused by an electric spark.
“There was a fault and these guys had to come here to sort it out. While in the process of repair I think there was a short circuit then the substation exploded. The sparks could have ignited one of the electricians’ clothes. We haven’t seen the person yet but we believe he has been severely injured,” said Mr Phiri.
He said the explosion was the second on the same substation yesterday. “We’ve now got a Zesa technician attending to the scene. Hopefully he is going to fix the problem,” Mr Phiri said. — @nqotshili/ @andile_tshuma