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Major blaze ravages South Africa’s historic Parliament complex

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Major blaze ravages South Africa’s historic Parliament complex
Photo credit: AFP/BBC

A major blaze fire tore through South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town on Sunday, causing the roof of one building to collapse and gutting the chamber of the National Assembly. 

Media reports said flames were shooting out of the top of one building, sending plumes of thick black smoke into the sky above parliament and into neighbouring streets. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the scene and called it a “terrible and devastating event”.

The fire broke out on Sunday morning and more than 12 hours later, dozens of firefighters were still working to bring the blaze under control. No injuries or fatalities have been reported.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said it appeared that a sprinkler system “did not work as it was supposed to” and that a person was being questioned by authorities in relation to the fire. 

Ramaphosa praised firefighters for working to “stop parliament from being razed to ashes” but said the fire had “devastated the parliamentary precinct and its contents and assets, including parliament’s historical treasures of heritage.”

A 51-year-old man was arrested and questioned by the authorities, police said.

Major blaze ravages South Africa’s historic Parliament complex

JP Smith, a Cape Town mayoral committee member responsible for safety and security, told a news conference outside parliament that “the entire parliamentary complex is severely damaged, waterlogged and smoke damaged.”

“The roof above the Old Assembly hall is completely gone and the offices adjacent to it and the gym are destroyed,” Smith added.

Firefighters were said to be still actively battling fires in the parliament’s National Assembly building on Sunday evening. The first and second floors of the Old Assembly building have been “completely gutted” by the intense blaze, and the third-floor roof of the Old Assembly building caved in earlier in the day, according to reports.

The parliamentary complex, some of which dates back to 1884, consists of a cluster of buildings.

Major blaze ravages South Africa’s historic Parliament complex

The fire broke out the day after anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu’s funeral was held at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, not far from parliament. 

President Ramaphosa said Tutu would have been “devastated as well because [parliament] is a place that he not only supported, prayed for, and wanted to see as the repository of the democracy that he worked so hard for.”

Smith said Sunday’s blaze was more serious than another fire that broke out at parliament in March 2021. In the March incident, the fire broke out at the Old Assembly and no one was injured.

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The information and opinions expressed in our published works are those of authors/sources believed to be reliable. NewsMoris makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information expressed.