South Africa Parliament Fire Still Burning After Hours

CAPE TOWN — A large fire was burning at South Africa’s Houses of Parliament early Sunday morning, sending flames and smoke pouring from rooftops and fire crews racing to save the historic structures.

The scale of the destruction was not immediately clear, but officials warned it was likely to be extensive.

“The damage will be significant, especially if it’s not contained soon,” JP Smith, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, told the Newzroom Afrika satellite channel. “The fact that they’re calling for more resources to assist is not a good sign.”

No injuries were immediately reported.

Mr. Smith said the fire was reported just after 5 a.m. It spread from an office space on the third floor of one building toward a gym and to rooftops. The National Assembly building, where the lower house of Parliament meets, was on fire. Smoke was pouring from the main entrance.

The complex includes a structure completed in the late 1800s that is home to the National Council of Parliament, the country’s upper house. The National Assembly building is a newer addition.

In March, the older building caught fire, but that blaze was quickly extinguished.

“It’s tragic that we’re starting the new year on this basis, with a fire in the old assembly that seems to be spreading to the new assembly,” Steven Swart, the chief whip of the African Christian Democratic Party, said on Sunday.

The fire was still burning hours after it was first reported. At least six fire trucks and more than 60 firefighters were sent to the scene, Mr. Smith said, and the streets around the complex were closed off.

The blaze broke out a day after the funeral of Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who helped lead the fight against apartheid in South Africa. It was held at St. George’s Cathedral, which is a few minutes’ walk from the Houses of Parliament.


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