CAPE TOWN (CU)_South Africa’s national Parliament complex sent a dark plume of smoke and flames into the air above on Sunday, as firefighters battled a blaze that was burning the landmark which houses lawmakers. According to the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille, the fire had started on the third floor which houses offices, before spreading to the National Assembly building.
The spokesman for the City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service, Jermaine Carelse, told reporters that the fire was first reported by security guards around 6 a.m. Around 35 firefighters were on the scene he said, adding that no injuries have been reported. Meanwhile Minister de Lille revealed that President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was in Cape Town for the funeral service of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has been briefed on the fire. The funeral service took place at St. George’s Cathedral, which is located about a block away from the Parliament precinct.
Sharing details on the incident earlier in front of the Parliament complex gates, the Minister said the fire was initially concentrated in an old Parliament building behind the National Assembly, to which the flames advanced later. “The fire is currently in the National Assembly chambers,” she said. “This is a very sad day for democracy for Parliament is the home of our democracy.”
Government officials had reportedly feared that part of buildings, some of which were first built in the late 1800s, might collapse as a result of the flames. “The bitumen on the roof is even melting, an indication of the intense heat. There have been reports of some walls showing cracks, which could indicate a collapse,” News24 website quoted Carelse as saying.
Roads were closed as police cordoned off the complex. The sections which were blocked-off included areas where people had left flowers and other tributes to Archbishop Tutu, who died Sunday (26 Dec).