Firefighters battle blaze at South Africa parliament complex

Firefighters were battling a blaze at South Africa’s parliamentary precinct in Cape Town that broke out early Sunday and caused extensive damage to the legislative buildings.

Flames and thick smoke poured from the roof of one of the buildings in the complex. Several firetrucks were on the scene and the surrounding streets were sealed off to traffic.

There were no reports of injuries and the cause of the fire and extent of the damage was still being assessed. Buildings were unoccupied because parliament has been in recess since Dec. 10.

Cape Town’s fire and rescue service received a call that a building was alight and dispatched nine vehicles and dozens of firefighters to the scene. “Initial reports indicate it started in the office space and is spreading toward the gymnasium,”  J.P. Smith, a member of Cape Town’s mayoral committee, said in a statement.

Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille later told reporters that the fire gutted the Old Assembly Chamber, one of the oldest buildings in parliament, and had spread to the National Assembly, the main debating chamber, where it was still burning. The flames could take another two to three hours to extinguish, she said.

Parliament’s annual opening ceremony will go ahead next month as planned, although an alternative venue may have to be found, Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Some parliamentary proceedings have been conducted online since the onset of coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.