The devastating fire at the South African Parliament in Cape Town, which broke out early Sunday morning and burned the National Assembly building to the ground, was under control Monday morning.
After 24 hours of fighting, the violent fire that ravaged a large part of the South African Parliament in Cape Town is finally under control.
« The fire was brought under control during the night, the number of people on site was gradually reduced, » said Jermaine Carelse, spokesman for the city’s fire department, on Monday 3 January.
About 20 rescue workers were still on the scene, with the fire continuing in the oldest parts of the building, which contains some 4,000 works of art and heritage, some of which date back to the 17th century. The Library of Parliament, with its unique collection of books, appears to have been spared.
The extent of the damage has not yet been established, but the National Assembly building was completely destroyed. « The biggest damage is probably in this building, which will not be used for months, » according to Jermaine Carelse.
The large building is made up of three parts: a building that houses the current National Assembly, another that houses the upper house of Parliament called the National Council of Provinces, and the historic part, the oldest, where parliamentarians used to meet.
The presidents of the two chambers and members of the government are due to meet later today to take stock of the situation.
The fire started at around 5 a.m. (3 a.m. GMT) on Sunday in the oldest wing, completed in 1884, with rooms covered in precious wood. The most recent parts were built in 1920 and 1980.
According to the first elements of the investigation, the fire started in two separate areas. And a shutdown of the water supply prevented the sprinkler system from working properly. A report is due within 24 hours to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who visited the site on Sunday.
One man was arrested inside the parliament building. 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 is due to be arraigned on Tuesday. This is the second time in less than a year that the parliament building has been damaged by fire. A quickly contained fire broke out in March.
Cape Town has been the seat of Parliament since 1910, while the government is based in Pretoria. In February 1990, the last white South African president, Frederik de Klerk, who died in November, announced the end of the racist apartheid regime.