Fire breaks out at South African parliament in Cape Town
A major fire broke out at South Africa’s seat of parliament in Cape Town early on Sunday, sending a thick column of smoke into the sky and threatening the National Assembly building.
The fire was believed to have started in one of the older buildings in the parliament precinct, leading to a security cordon nearby the cathedral where anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu was buried just hours before.
No one was believed to have been harmed and the cause of the blaze was not yet known.
Emergency services said that the “fire is currently on the third floor – initial reports indicate it started in the office space and is spreading toward the gymnasium”.
The fire broke out in a former parliament building at around 05:00..
Flames and smoke were visible above the building in the early morning.
Firefighter reinforcements arrived at the scene, using a crane to spray water on the flames.
Emergency services feared the fire could spread swiftly through the old rooms, which are decorated with thick carpets and curtains.
The area around the fire in the upmarket neighbourhood was quickly cordoned off.
The cordon stretched to where flowers were still displayed in front the nearby St. George’s Cathedral, where Tutu’s funeral took place on Saturday.
While Cape Town is home to South Africa’s seat of parliament, including the National Assembly and upper House National Council of Provinces, the government is based in Pretoria.
The Houses of Parliament in Cape Town consist 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.
Cape Town suffered a previous fire in April, when a blaze on the famed Table Mountain which overlooks the city spread, ravaging part of The University of Cape Town’s library holding a unique collection of African archives.