Huge fire breaks out at South African parliament in Cape Town

2 January 2022, 07:19 | Updated: 2 January 2022, 16:05

Smoke billows from the roof of a building at the South African Parliament.
Smoke billows from the roof of a building at the South African Parliament. Picture: Getty

By Sophie Barnett

A huge fire broke out at South Africa's parliament in Cape Town on Sunday, with flames seen spewing from the building.

A dark plume of smoke and flames could be seen rising from the building in the centre of the city on Sunday morning, with more than 35 firefighters battling the blaze.

No people have been injured in the fire, which was reported by security guards, City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse said.

The fire started on the third floor of a building that houses offices and spread to the National Assembly building, where South Africa's Parliament sits, Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia de Lille said.

"The fire is currently in the National Assembly chambers," Ms De Lille said.

"This is a very sad day for democracy for Parliament is the home of our democracy."

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the scene, saying a person was "being held and is being questioned" by police in connection with the blaze.

The fire initially was concentrated in an old Parliament building located behind the National Assembly, Ms De Lille told reporters earlier in front of the Parliament complex gates.

Before announcing that the flames had advanced to the National Assembly building, she had said firefighters "have the situation under control".

Authorities feared that parts of the buildings, some of them first built in the late 1800s, might collapse because of the heat.

"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," News24 website quoted Mr Carelse as saying.

A major fire broke out in the South African parliament building in Cape Town.
A major fire broke out in the South African parliament building in Cape Town. Picture: Getty

The president and many of South Africa's high-ranking politicians were in Cape Town for the funeral service of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which took place on Saturday at the city's St George's Cathedral, about a block away from the Parliament precinct.

The anti-apartheid campaigner died on Boxing Day aged 90 and has since been lying in state at St George's Cathedral in the city.

A general view of a building on fire at the South African Parliament precinct in Cape Town.
A general view of a building on fire at the South African Parliament precinct in Cape Town. Picture: Getty

This story is being updated.

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