Cape Town Parliament on fire, 2 January 2021Marco Longari
Rescue workers have been fighting for more than 24 hours: The devastating fire at the South African Parliament in Cape Town, which broke out early Sunday morning and reduced the National Assembly precinct to ashes, was under control on Monday morning, according to reports. firefighters.
“The fire was brought under control overnight, the staff on site were gradually reduced,” said the spokesman for the city’s firefighters, Jermaine Carelse, on Monday morning.
About twenty rescuers were still there, the fire continuing in the oldest parts of the building which conceal treasures: some 4,000 works of art and heritage, some of which date back to the 17th century.
The Library of Parliament, which has a unique collection of books, appears to have been spared.
The extent of the damage has not yet been established, but the grounds of the National Assembly have been completely destroyed. “Most of the damage is probably in this building which will not be able to be used for months”, according to Mr. Carelse.
The vast building is made up of three parts: a building housing the current National Assembly, another housing the upper house of Parliament called the National Council of Provinces, and the oldest part where parliamentarians previously met.
– An arrest –
The presidents of the two chambers and members of the government must meet during the day for a first inventory.
The fire started on Sunday around 5 a.m. (3 a.m. GMT) in the oldest wing, completed in 1884, with rooms covered with precious wood. The most recent parts were built in 1920 and 1980.
According to the first elements of the investigation, the fire broke out in two separate homes. And a shutdown of the water supply prevented the automatic extinguishing system from working properly. A report must be submitted within 24 hours to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who visited the site on Sunday.
A 49-year-old man was arrested inside Parliament. He has been charged with “burglary, arson” and will be prosecuted for threatening state property, the elite South African police unit, the Hawks, said in a statement. He must be presented to justice on Tuesday.
This is the second time in less than a year that Parliament has been damaged by fire. A quickly contained fire broke out in March.
Cape Town has been the seat of Parliament since 1910, and the government is based in Pretoria. In February 1990, the last white South African president to die in November, FW de Klerk, announced there the end of the racist apartheid regime.