Sunday, January 02, 2022
Flame Hell in Cape Town
South African parliament destroyed by fire
Dozens of firefighters have been trying to save since morning. But they can’t stop the National Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa, from causing massive damage to a raging fire. A spokesman says the parliamentary chamber is “absolutely burned down.”
The Chamber of Deputies in Cape Town, South Africa was completely destroyed in a fire. In the afternoon a parliamentary speaker said the flames that had engulfed the Chamber of Deputies had “completely burned down” since morning. The fire is still not under control and the cause is not clear. However, there is one suspect who is to appear in court on Tuesday, the police said. The details of the possible victims are not yet available.
The roof of the old assembly building had already collapsed. Constructed in 1884, the building is the oldest in the Parliament complex and houses several wood-paneled meeting rooms. According to officials, the fire started around 4 am (CET). The historic building houses a collection of rare books and an original version of the former South African national anthem “Die Stemm Sud-Africa” (The Voice of South Africa). Jean-Pierre Smith, a member of the city’s safety committee, said the building was badly damaged by smoke and water.
According to head of state Cyril Ramaphosa, a man was arrested and questioned. According to a police spokesperson, it is a 51-year-old who was in the parliamentary complex. “He is still being questioned as part of a criminal investigation (…) and will appear in court on Tuesday,” Thandi Mambabo, a spokesman for an elite unit of the South African police, said.
During the day, fire tenders had to be called to the spot. Around 70 firefighters were on duty then. He tried to put out the fire with a crane. Nevertheless, the fire spread from the old wing of the building to the newer, still used parts of the complex.
The building had caught fire in March as well.
At noon the grand Victoria building was surrounded by a thick cloud of black smoke. In TV pictures, it can be seen how huge flames came out from the roof of the building. Parliamentary Speaker Moloto Mothapo said in the afternoon, “The entire sitting room of MPs is completely burnt.” Altogether, the Parliament complex consists of three parts. The new building complex, used today by the National Assembly, dates back to the 1920s and 1980s.
Rescuers cordoned off the streets of the locality. Barriers approach the cathedral, where the memorial service for Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Bishop Desmond Tutu had taken place the day before, and where Tutu was buried early in the morning in an urn.
Cape Town has been the seat of the South African Parliament, which includes the National Assembly and the upper house – the Council of Provinces – since 1910, while the government is based in Pretoria. In 1990, then-President Frederick de Klerk announced the end of the apartheid regime in Parliament in Cape Town.
The building had already burned down in March, but the fire was soon brought under control. In April, a massive fire devastated Cape Town’s Table Mountain. The fire engulfed several historic buildings and destroyed parts of the university library, among other things.
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