Investigators hired to investigate the cause of the October 18 2013 fire at Escom headquarters in Blantyre have failed to establish what sparked the inferno and have ruled out any foul play, The Nation has established.
In their official report seen by The Nation, Incendium Fire Investigation of South Africa only said there were insufficient interpretable fire patterns to allow for determination of an area of fire origin during the interior inspection.
Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) public relations manager Kitty Chingota said in an interview on Tuesday no further investigations will be undertaken as a forensic audit is the best one can undertake.
She said: “This puts the matter to rest. There were many rumours going on around, some claimed there was sabotage while others said other things, but the forensic report shows that the fire was an accident. We believe this answers people’s queries.”
But in their communication to Office of the President and Cabinet, Escom management indicated that they have engaged an assessor, asked for a report from the police and a structural assessment which was done by Romana Consulting Engineering has proposed that the first floor slab of the building be partially or completely demolished.
The forensic report, which was concluded on October 30, could not clearly conclude as to what might have caused the fire.
“The physical evidence, considered with the reported version of the events as relayed by occupants of the payroll office and the security guard indicated that the fire had possibly resulted from an electrical failure/overheating of an electrical multi-plug adapter or its serving wiring, by virtue of the fact that it had reportedly been energised during the fire and located in close proximity to suitable combustible material. The pre-fire status of the electrical appliances could not be verified due to the listed constraints and the fire cause is classified as undetermined,” reads the report in part.
The investigations, which started on October 28 last year after a general discussion held at Escom Annex, simultaneously interviewed deputy senior payroll officer Alex Somanje, payroll officer Felex Macheka and security guard officer for Escom Ndatsalapati Mbewe.
The report further says the fire damaged a multi-storey structure that was used for administration purposes.
Further reads the report: “Visible fire damage in the payroll office was widespread and severe. Total ceiling collapse had occurred and the fire had destroyed the timber and glass panes that had extended between the western northern and eastern walls and the concrete roof. The fire also consumed the bookshelves and the timber components of the desks and most documentation had sustained severe fire damage.”
The report further says the fire brigade had concentrated putting out the fire in one area, and neglected the other.
Currently, Escom revenue collection services for post-paid billing customers are being provided at the power utility’s Chichiri Shopping Centre offices.