: Fire Ravages South Africa’s Historic Parliament Complex #WorldNEWS CAPE TOWN, South Africa — A major fire ripped through South Africas 138-year-old Parliament complex on Sunday, gutting offices
Fire Ravages South Africa’s Historic Parliament Complex #WorldNEWS
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — A major fire ripped through South Africas 138-year-old Parliament complex on Sunday, gutting offices and causing some ceilings to collapse at a site that has hosted some of the countrys pivotal moments. As firefighters struggled to tame the blaze, a dark plume of smoke and flames rose high into the air above the southern city of Cape Town.
Around 70 firefighters were still battling the fire hours after it started in the early morning, Cape Towns Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse said. Some were lifted up on a crane to spray water on the blaze from above. No injuries have been reported and Parliament itself had been closed for the holidays.
Visiting the scene, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said a person was “being held and is being questioned” by police in connection with the blaze. Police later confirmed a 51-year-old man had been detained.
“The fire is currently in the National Assembly chambers,” Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille told reporters as smoke billowed behind her from the roof of the historic white building with grand entrance columns. “This is a very sad day for democracy, for Parliament is the home of our democracy. ”
“We have not been able to contain the fire in the National Assembly,” she added. “Part of the ceilings have collapsed. ”
Officials said the fire started in the Old Assembly building, which was built in 1884 and originally housed the South African Parliament but is now used for offices. It spread to the newer National Assembly building, built in the 1980s, which is where the Parliament now sits.
Authorities feared extensive damage to both buildings, which have stark white facades, elaborate roof linings and majestic columns, now all obscured by flames and smoke. There were also fears that priceless artifacts inside, including a manuscript where the composer first wrote some lyrics for South Africas national anthem, would be lost forever.
Carelse warned that both buildings were at risk of collapsing.
“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,” the News24 website quoted Carelse as saying.
J. P. Smith, the Cape Town official in charge of safety and security, said at least one floor of the Old Assembly building was “gutted” and its entire roof had collapsed. The firefighters were now focusing efforts toward saving the National Assembly building, he said.
While the Old Assembly building was closely connected to South Africas colonial and apartheid history, the National Assembly building was where former President F.
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