Mystery fire at top DBN hotel

2009-01-14 00:00

Forensic experts have launched investigations into a blaze that ravaged the third floor of Durban’s iconic Royal Hotel.

The fire started in a linen room and quickly spread across the third floor on Tuesday evening. About 100 guests and staff members had to be evacuated to an adjacent parking lot. Guests were moved to other Three Cities hotels around Durban.

While investigations into the cause of the fire have started, sources close to the hotel said the fire could have been started by a non-resident who was found wandering around on the floor where the fire began.

It is believed that the man had been drinking at a bar in the hotel where he ran up a bar tab of R300.

When staff asked him to settle the bill, he said he needed to fetch money from his hotel room.

The man left the bar and was later on the floor where the fire started. He could not explain to police and fire officials why he was on that floor.

Police spokeswoman Director Phindile Radebe confirmed that a man was taken in for questioning, but would not comment on whether he was connected to the fire.

“At this stage, all we can confirm is that forensic experts are investigating the cause of the fire,” she said.

The acting regional commander of the eThekwini fire department Jesse Yasudas said it took firemen almost an hour to extinguish the blaze.

“The fire started in the storage area and soon spread to the other rooms. Thick black smoke filled the upper floors of the luxurious hotel.”

Hotel managing director Mike Lambert could not be reached for comment. Acting general manager Ian Armstrong declined to comment on the extent of the damage.

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