Redelinghuys church blaze: Cell companies restoring town's connectivity

2019-04-10 16:00
The NG church building in Redelinghuys on the West Coast in flames.

The NG church building in Redelinghuys on the West Coast in flames. (Facebook)

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Cellphone companies were working on restoring connectivity to the town of Redelinghuys on Wednesday, after the town went offline when the Dutch Reformed Church building that was housing transmission equipment went up in flames.

"We can confirm that our network connectivity in Redelinghuys was severely affected by the fires that broke out yesterday at the Dutch Reformed Church in Redelinghuys," Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said.

"The investigation to determine the cause of the fire will start as soon as we gain access to the building," he said.

"As a result, we are unable to provide details about the extent of damage to our equipment and we will only know after we have access to the building," said Kennedy.

The company is working on restoring connectivity and is considering deploying a mobile site in or near the town in the meantime. Redelinghuys is about 160km north of Cape Town.

MTN spokesperson Jacqui O'Sullivan said MTN had also deployed technicians to Redelinghuys and was also planning to deploy a temporary mobile base station.

"MTN is aware of the fire that occurred at The Dutch Reformed church in Redelinghuys which resulted in disruption of its network in the area. The cause of the fire is yet unknown, authorities are currently investigating.

"MTN has deployed its technicians to evaluate the impact and will deploy a temporary mobile base station as soon as permission is obtained from the local authority," she said.

Reverend Nioma Venter, spokesperson for the church in the Western Cape, said that she had heard rumours that the fire might have been started by cellphone equipment hosted at the church. However, forensic examiners were at the scene on Wednesday to establish what happened.

Years of documents saved

She said the fire started at around 07:30 in the steeple of the decades-old building. 

READ: At least 200 left homeless in Wupperthal after another Western Cape fire

"They could still empty the office," said Venter, relieved that decades of documentation and records were saved. 

Some chairs were also taken outside. However, when the roof collapsed, the fire engulfed the building, making further attempts at taking items outside impossible.

When the flames had been put out, even the church's organ and piano were destroyed. 

Venter said "that is not important" at the moment.

"What is important is there was no loss of life. They still have each other."

This Sunday, services will continue in the church hall which was not damaged by the blaze. 

'A loss for the community'

Losing the Redelinghuys Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) is a devastating blow for the community, said Billy Claasen, director of the Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation. 

"It is a loss for the whole community. The memories and everything burnt down," said Claasen whose parents worked as farm labourers in Redelinghuys. 

He said the previous reverend Jan van Schoor, who retired recently, did his best to overcome the perception that the DRC is a "whites only" church. 

"He held weddings for people of other colours, funerals. People are devastated. People are still in shock."

The reverend (Van Schoor) tried to bring the community together, said Claasen, whose work focuses primarily on social justice issues that affect farmworkers.

The DRC has also set up a fund for the already financially struggling church to raise money for repairs, and to replace equipment. The church no longer has a full time reverend due to costs.


Police spokesperson Captain FC Van Wyk said: "Be advised that no foul play is suspected and no arson docket was opened."

Read more on:    mtn  |  vodacom  |  cape town  |  fires
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