South Africa parliament fireplace: Roof collapses, total flooring gutted

Photographs from the scene confirmed flames capturing out of the highest of 1 constructing, sending plumes of thick black smoke into the sky above parliament and into neighboring streets.

The hearth broke out on Sunday morning and greater than 12 hours later, dozens of firefighters had been nonetheless working to carry the blaze below management. No accidents or fatalities have been reported.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa stated it appeared {that a} sprinkler system “didn’t work because it was imagined to” and that an individual was being questioned by authorities in relation to the fireplace.

Ramaphosa praised firefighters for working to “cease parliament from being razed to ashes” however stated the fireplace had “devastated the parliamentary precinct and its contents and belongings, together with parliament’s historic treasures of heritage.”

JP Smith, a Cape City mayoral committee member accountable for security and safety, informed a information convention outdoors parliament that “the complete parliamentary complicated is severely broken, waterlogged and smoke broken.”

“The roof above the Previous Meeting corridor is totally gone and the workplaces adjoining to it and the gymnasium are destroyed,” Smith added. “The Nationwide Meeting chamber behind me, which you’ll be able to see, is gutted, the structural ceiling has collapsed and the fireplace workers needed to be momentarily withdrawn.”

Firefighters had been nonetheless actively battling fires within the parliament’s Nationwide Meeting constructing on Sunday night, a Cape City Fireplace and Rescue Division spokesperson informed CNN. The primary and second flooring of the Previous Meeting constructing have been “fully gutted” by the extreme blaze, and the third-floor roof of the Previous Meeting constructing caved in earlier within the day, the spokesperson added.

The parliamentary complicated, a few of which dates again to 1884, consists of a cluster of buildings. The Nationwide Meeting, or decrease home of parliament, is located in what is named the New Wing. The higher home, or Nationwide Council of Provinces, is positioned in what is known as the Previous Meeting.

The hearth began within the workplace space of the complicated earlier than spreading to the Nationwide Meeting chambers. Firefighters received to the scene after 6 a.m. and had some difficulties gaining entry because of the constructing’s security measures, Smith stated.

Smith additionally stated the fireplace alarm system appeared to not have functioned correctly, as a result of firefighters had been on the scene earlier than the system sounded the alarm.

“The electrical energy on the complicated didn’t journey when the fireplace began. That created a really harmful state of affairs and the complete block’s electrical energy needed to be disconnected. The hearth detection gear took fairly some time to activate, and so the fireplace was energetic for some time,” he added.

The hearth broke out the day after anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu’s funeral was held at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape City, not removed from parliament.

President Ramaphosa stated Tutu would have been “devastated as properly as a result of [parliament] is a spot that he not solely supported, prayed for, and wished to see because the repository of the democracy that he labored so arduous for.”

Public Works and Infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille earlier informed a information convention outdoors parliament that there have been no experiences of accidents.

“It is a very unhappy day for our democracy as a result of parliament is the house of our democracy and parliament can be a strategic key level,” de Lille stated.

Smith stated Sunday’s blaze was extra critical than one other fireplace that broke out at parliament in March 2021. Within the March incident, the fireplace broke out on the Previous Meeting and nobody was injured.

Eleanor Pickston contributed to this report.