A large fire is raging at the House of Parliament in Cape Town, the capital city of South Africa. This comes hours after Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s State Funeral at St. George’s Cathedral.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said news of the fire was a “terrible setback to what we were basking in yesterday” and added that Archbishop Tutu would also have been devastated.
The Houses of Parliament in Cape Town is made up of three sections, including the original and oldest building that was completed in 1884. The newer additions, constructed in the 1920s and 1980s, house the National Assembly.
No injuries or casualties yet, but fire officials and all involved say it could take another 4 hours to completely put out the fire, because of the carpets and the building’s wooden floors.
The fire started at about 0300 GMT on Sunday. It began on the third floor offices and quickly spread to the Parliament’s Lower House (the National Assembly Chamber). Ever since then, it has been fire and flames.
As early responders, a team of 30 firefighters came first and tried battling the flames for hours, all to no avail. About 80 firefighters were later deployed. A crane was used to spray water on the blaze.
Earlier, Patricia De Lille, who is responsible for government infrastructure stated that the fire in the Chamber of the Council of Provinces (the Upper House) had been contained, but still, the National Assembly is still in flames.
JP Smith, a member of the Cape Town mayoral committee for safety and security, told reporters the roof had partially collapsed and that the fire detection alarm did not sound at the start of the fire:
“The roof of the building has collapsed on the one side and the fire has spread to the new assembly, according to the officers.
“They’ve detected large cracks in the wall, which is of concern.
“The firefighters report that they were on scene for some time before the fire detection system first triggered and then sounded the alert. So it does appear that that system was somewhat delayed.”
At the moment, it is uncertain what could be the cause of the fire.
In April, a similar fire broke out on Cape Town’s Table Mountain, which overlooks the city, spread, ravaging part of the University of Cape Town’s library holding a unique collection of African archives.