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KIU International Desk: Fire Guts South African Parliament 


By Rogers Wanambwa 

KIU, Main Campus – On Sunday, a large fire tore through South Africa's parliament in Cape Town, resulting in the roof of one building collapsing and gutting the chamber of the National Assembly.

According to images from the scene, flames shooting out of the top of one building, propelling plumes of thick black smoke into the sky above the parliament and neighboring streets.

 At the scene, dozens of firefighters were seen battling the blaze, which broke out on Sunday morning and was still not under control by the afternoon. No injuries or casualties have been reported.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who visited the scene, termed it a “terrible and devastating event.”

The fire, which began shortly after 06:00 local time (04:00 GMT), came the day after Archbishop Desmond Tutu's state funeral at St George's Cathedral, coincidentally near parliament.

President Ramaphosa acknowledged the news of the fire as a “terrible setback to what we were basking in yesterday” and added that Archbishop Tutu would also have been confounded.

The president said that the building's sprinkler system had not appropriately operated and praised firefighters for reacting to the fire in minutes. Without their intervention, the National Assembly would have been reduced to "ashes," he noted.

Jean-Pierre Smith, a Cape Town mayoral committee for safety and security member, told the press that the roof above the old assembly hall was “completely gone” and further damage inside the old chamber had not yet been evaluated.

He added, “It is impossible to see whether it's damaged. We hope it is not because it has so many historical artefacts, but you can't gain access to it without breaking the doors down, and we don't want to do that.” 

The BBC's Nomsa Maseko in Cape Town reported that officials said the fire started on the third-floor offices and quickly spread to the National Assembly (the parliament's lower house) chamber.

At the time of writing this article, no injuries had been reported, and there was no indication of what may have started it.

Fortunately, the parliament is not currently in session because of the holidays.

The Houses of Parliament in Cape Town are made up of three sections, with the oldest dating back to 1884. The newer sections built in the 1920s and 1980s house the National Assembly. Meanwhile, the government is based in Pretoria.

This is the second fire at the parliament in under a year; in March, a fire was caused by an electrical fault.