The soon-to-be-demolished fire-damaged China Emporium building in Durban has reportedly caught fire again in the early hours of Friday.
The building, located on the western side of the Durban central business district, was extensively damaged by fire in January 2022 and was condemned.
The eThekwini’s Municipality Fire Department took almost a week to damp down the 2022 fire which started in the generator room.
Sifiso Mtshali, divisional commander for the fire department, said the fire on Friday may have been started by vagrants who occupied the building.
The fire has been extinguished and there were no injuries reported.
“At this point, we suspect that the fire was started by vagrants that occasionally burn items for copper however it has not been confirmed,” said Mtshali.
Mtshali said since the building was condemned the fire department couldn’t enter the building to properly inspect it.
He said this was the third fire since the huge January 2022 fire; however, these fires have been smaller and less damaging.
Plans to demolish the building
In August this year, the eThekwini Municipality announced that it had plans to demolish the building and recover R28 million in costs from the developer.
eThekwini Municipality had been locked in a legal battle over the demolition of the building which the City said is a public safety hazard and an eyesore.
According to the municipality, a structural engineer’s report received days after the fire recommended that the entire building be demolished.
In a statement released last month, the City said the decision to expedite the demolition comes after careful consideration of multiple challenges arising from the compromised structure’s continued existence.