On Sunday, a major fire broke out in South Africa’s Parliament Complex. It destroyed offices and caused some ceilings to fall from the building that houses South Africa’s national legislature. As firefighters battled to control the flames, a plume dark smoke rose high above Cape Town.
Jermaine Carelse, Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson, said that 70 firefighters were still fighting the fire seven hours after it started in early morning. Some firefighters were lifted onto a crane to help spray water from above the fire. There were no injuries reported, and Parliament was closed for the holidays.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the scene and said that a person was being held and being questioned by police in connection to the blaze.
Patricia de Lille, Minister for Public Works and Infrastructure, said that “the fire is currently at the National Assembly Chambers.” She told reporters as smoke billowed behind them from the historic white building’s roof. “This is a sad day for democracy, because Parliament is the home for our democracy.” “We have not been capable of containing the fire at the National Assembly,” she said. “Partially the ceilings have fallen.” JP Smith (Cape Town official responsible for safety & security) stated that at most one floor of the Parliamentary Office Building was “gutted” with its entire roof having collapsed. According to Smith, firefighters are now focusing on saving South Africa’s National Assembly building.
Carelse warned buildings were at risk and historic artifacts inside were likely be damaged or destroyed. “The roof’s bitumen is melting, a sign of the intense heat. According to News24, there have been reports that walls are showing cracks. This could indicate a collapse. Carelse stated that security guards reported the fire at 6 a.m. and that 35 firefighters were called for help. Cape Town activated its Disaster Coordinating Team which responds in major emergencies. The area was cordoned off by police, who also closed the roads around it. The precinct consists of three main sections: the original Parliament building was built in late 1800s and two parts that were constructed in the 20th century. According to de Lille, the fire started at the old Parliament building, which is located behind the National Assembly. She stated that firefighters had “the situation under control” but that the fire quickly spread to her current Parliament building.
De Lille said that it was too soon to speculate on a cause. He also said that authorities were reviewing video footage and that an investigation was underway.
Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula, the speaker of Parliament, cautioned against speculations that it was a deliberate attack upon South Africa’s seat for democracy.
“Until such a time as a report has been submitted that arson was committed, we must be careful not make suggestions that there were an attack,” she stated.
Ramaphosa was in Cape Town with many of South Africa’s most prominent politicians for the funeral of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It took place Saturday at St. George’s Cathedral in the city, just a block from the Parliament precinct.
De Lille stated that a team had been set up to protect the president’s Cape Town offices from the fire. It is located very close to Parliament.
Last year, a huge wildfire broke out on Table Mountain’s slopes. It spread to other buildings and destroyed part of the University of Cape Town’s historic library. A report concluded that the fire was intentionally started. South Africa’s legislative capitol is Cape Town. The parliament is also located there. Pretoria, home to government offices, is the administrative capital. Bloemfontein houses the Supreme Court.
(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff. It is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.