South African parliament buildings in Cape Town ablaze

Smoke billows from South Africa’s seat of parliament in Cape Town. Marco Longari AFP

A major fire broke out at South Africa’s seat of parliament in Cape Town early on Sunday, sending a thick column of smoke into the sky and threatening the nearby National Assembly building. ADVERTISING

The fire is believed to have started in one of the older buildings in the parliament precinct, leading to a security cordon near the cathedral where anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu was buried on Saturday.

“The roof has caught fire and the National Assembly building is also on fire,” a spokesman for the city’s emergency services told reporters.

“The fire is not under control and cracks in the walls of the building have been reported,” he added.

No injuries have been reported and the cause of the blaze is not yet known.PUBLICITÉ

Emergency services said that the “fire is currently on the third floor — initial reports indicate it started in the office space and is spreading toward the gymnasium”.

‘Situation under control’

Former Cape Town mayor and current minister Patricia de Lille told reporters at the scene that the “actual National Assembly is still safe”.

“Fire Service have the situation under control,” she added.

Firefighter reinforcements arrived at the scene, using a crane to spray water on the flames.

Emergency services feared the fire could spread swiftly through the old rooms, which are decorated with thick carpets and curtains.

The area around the blaze was quickly cordoned off.

The cordon stretched to where flowers were still displayed in front of St. George’s Cathedral, where Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s funeral took place on Saturday.

While Cape Town is home to South Africa’sparliament, including the National Assembly and upper house, the National Council of Provinces, the government is based in Pretoria.

The Houses of Parliament in Cape Town consist of three sections, including the original and oldest building, completed in 1884.

The newer additions — constructed in the 1920s and 1980s — house the National Assembl

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