The technical block of the Ivorian broadcasting house (RTI) was engulfed in flames Monday evening, during the evening news braodcast at 8pm.
By Jocelyne Ballot (Ivory Coast correspondent)
The fire brigade arrived sometime after the fire started in one of the technical blocks of the Ivorian Broadcasting Corporation and could not salvage the recording studios and the control room. They were however, able to bring the fire under control around 9:45 pm. The head of the fire brigade says it is too early to tell what started the fire, “it is impossible to know the cause of the fire without an investigation”.
The destruction to materials was quite heavy. The decoration hall, situated on the first floor was reduced to ashes. “No serious human casualities have been reported” said the head of operations, besides a case of mild suffocation and a security guard who fainted whilst trying to contain the high flames.
Members of the Ivorian government, rushed to the scene in the first hour following this sad incident. The Ministers of Communication, Development, Public Health, an others were present. The army chief also coordinated a plan of action consisting of the deployment of special forces to secure danger zone.
Criminal Intent or Accidental?
The President of the Broadcasting station, Brou Amessan and his Vice-President, Issa Yeresso, explained the cause of the fire to officials. According to them, the fire started at 8pm when the eveing prime news was being aired. A panicked, Habiba Dembele, the news anchor, left her news desk from where she was presenting the evening news to alert the fire brigade.
This incident caused panick among the television audiences followed by a total shutdown of the two national television channels. With rumours of a coup d’etat looming, some think that the cause of fire was criminal considering the strategic importance of the national broadcasting corporation.
Some employees though, think that the delapidated state of the premises which have not been refurbished in a long time is to blame. According to another employee, this is the second accident of its kind in seven years. The previous one was quickly brought under control.
Television programmes resumed late Monday night with a press release from the management explaining the reasons behind the shutdown.