South Africa parliament fire: Roof collapses, significant damage throughout complex



Images from the scene showed flames shooting out of the top of one building, sending plumes of thick black smoke into the sky above parliament and into neighboring streets.

Dozens of firefighters were at the scene battling the blaze, which broke out on Sunday morning and was still not under control by early afternoon. No injuries or fatalities have been reported.

“The entire parliamentary complex is severely damaged, waterlogged and smoke damaged,” JP Smith, a Cape Town mayoral committee member responsible for safety and security, told a news conference in front of parliament.

“The roof above the old assembly hall is completely gone and the offices adjacent to it and the gym are destroyed,” Smith said. “The National Assembly chamber behind me, which you can see, is gutted, the structural ceiling has collapsed and the fire staff had to be momentarily withdrawn.”

South Africa’s Parliament said the fire had been contained in the old wing of the complex, but it was still burning in the new wing, where the chamber of the National Assembly — the lower house of parliament — is located.

The fire started in the office area of the complex before spreading to the National Assembly chambers. Firefighters got to the scene after 6 a.m. and had some difficulties gaining access due to the building’s security features, Smith said.

Smith also said the fire alarm system appeared not to have functioned properly, because firefighters were on the scene before the system sounded the alarm.

“The electricity at the complex did not trip when the fire started. That created a very dangerous situation and the entire block’s electricity had to be disconnected. The fire detection equipment took quite a while to activate, and so the fire was active for a while,” he added.

Public Works and Infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille told a news conference outside parliament that there were no reports of injuries.

“This is a very sad day for our democracy because parliament is the home of our democracy and parliament is also a strategic key point,” de Lille said.

Smith said Sunday’s blaze was more serious than another fire that broke out at parliament in March 2021. In the March incident, the fire broke out at the Old Assembly and no one was injured.


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