Again, fire guts South Africa’s parliament

File picture: Fire

Another fire incident that devastated South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town has been contained after it reignited on Monday, city officials say.

The fire first broke out on Sunday and completely destroyed the National Assembly, or lower chamber.

Strong winds caused smouldering wood in the roof to catch fire again on Monday, before firefighters doused the blaze.

Police have arrested a suspect who is due to appear in court later on charges of arson, housebreaking and theft.

No casualties have been reported in the fire, but the damage to the parliament has shocked the nation.

Authorities had warned that flare-ups would be possible because of carpets and wooden floors in the building.

But just 12 firefighters were on site when the wind reignited wood above the National Assembly on Monday, according to news agency AFP.

Despite reinforcements being sent, flames could still be seen emerging from the building as night fell.

“The fire was fanned by a strong south-easterly wind but firefighters managed to contain the fire just before 12:00 last night,” firefighters spokesman Jermaine Carelse told AFP.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa – who admitted the building’s sprinkler system had not functioned properly – praised firefighters for responding to the “terrible and devastating event” in minutes.

Government minister Patricia de Lille separately admitted that CCTV cameras had not ben monitored at the time the initial fire started.

The chairperson of the upper chamber, Amos Masondo, said Sunday’s fire had led to the “complete burning down” of the National Assembly chamber. Other areas of the parliamentary complex – parts of which date back to 1884 – were also badly damaged.

The parliament is not currently in session because of the holidays, and no-one was injured.

The building is home to thousands of treasures including historic books, photographs and important works of art, which officials said had been saved.

There had been particular concern that the valuable Keiskamma Tapestry, which is 120m (394ft) long and documents South Africa’s history, may have been damaged or destroyed.

It is expected to be many months before the building can be used again.

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said the city’s council chamber would be made available as an alternative place for parliament to meet.

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