Cape Town: Major blaze rips through South Africa parliament building


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A large fire is raging at the Houses of Parliament in the South African city of Cape Town.

Video footage showed a plume of black smoke filling the sky, with huge flames coming out from the roof of the building.

Dozens of firefighters are at the site battling the blaze; one official spoke of extensive damage at the site.

It comes hours after Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s state funeral at St George’s Cathedral, near parliament.

Officials said the fire started on the third floor offices and quickly spread to the National Assembly (the parliament’s lower house) chamber, reports the BBC’s Nomsa Maseko in Cape Town.

No injuries have been reported and there’s no indication of what may have started it, our correspondent adds.

Fire and rescue service officials said it could take another four hours to put the fire out completely because of the carpets and wooden floors in the building.

The minister responsible for government infrastructure, Patricia de Lille, earlier said the fire in the Chamber of the Council of Provinces (the upper house) had been contained, but the National Assembly was still burning:

[WATCH] “Currently, the fire is in the National Assembly chambers”- Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille tells the media. Tune into #Newzroom405 for more developments on this story. Parliament

A member of the Cape Town mayoral committee for safety and security, JP Smith, described the damage to the building:

“The entire parliamentary complex is severely damaged, water-logged and smoke-damaged… The roof above the old assembly chamber is, the old assembly hall is completely gone… and the offices adjacent to it in the gym are destroyed,” he said.

“The second point of fire is the national assembly chamber… which is gutted. The structural ceiling has collapsed and the fire staff had to be momentarily withdrawn.”

He had walked around the old chamber, but it was not possible to see whether it was damaged or gain access without breaking the doors down, which officials did not want to do at this point, he added.

The damage from the fire can be seen in these images made available by the city of Cape Town:

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.

Last year, a fire ravaged part of the University of Cape Town’s library, which was home to a unique collection of African archives.

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