Fire breaks out in South African Parliament in Cape Town


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Cape Town (AFP) – A major fire broke out on Sunday morning at the seat of the South African Parliament in Cape Town, projecting a thick column of smoke into the sky and threatening the National Assembly building.

The fire is said to have started in one of the oldest buildings in the parliamentary precinct, leading to a security cordon near the cathedral where the anti-apartheid icon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was buried for a few hours previously.

“The roof has caught fire and the National Assembly building is also on fire,” a spokesperson for the city’s emergency services told AFP, asking for reinforcements on the spot.

“The fire is not under control and cracks in the walls of the building have been reported,” he added.

No one was reportedly injured and the cause of the fire was not yet known.

Emergency services said “the fire is currently on the third floor – early reports indicate it has started in the offices and is spreading to the gymnasium.”

“Situation under control”

The fire broke out on Sunday in a former Parliament building at around 0300 GMT.

Flames and smoke were visible above the building in the early hours of the morning, according to AFP journalists there.

Marco Longari AFP

Concerned Cape Town residents quickly shared photos of the blaze on Twitter.

The former mayor of Cape Town and current minister Patricia de Lille told journalists on the spot that “the current National Assembly is still safe”.

“The firefighters have the situation under control,” she added.

Reinforcements from firefighters arrived at the scene, using a crane to spray water on the flames.

Emergency services feared the fire could quickly spread into the old rooms, which are decorated with thick rugs and curtains.

The area around the fire in the upscale neighborhood was quickly cordoned off.

The cordon extended to where flowers were still displayed outside nearby St. George’s Cathedral, where Tutu’s funeral took place on Saturday.

A map of South Africa locating Cape Town
A map of South Africa locating Cape Town AFP

After a simple, no-frills Mass, with an inexpensive casket – as instructed by the famous Tutu – his ashes were buried in the cathedral.

While Cape Town is home to the seat of the South African parliament, including the National Assembly and the National Council of the Provinces of the Upper House, the government is based in Pretoria.

The Cape Town Houses of Parliament consist of three sections, including the original and oldest building which was completed in 1884.

The most recent additions – built in the 1920s and 1980s – house the National Assembly.

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