South Africa parliament fire brought ‘under control’

The huge fire that destroyed parts of South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town has been brought under control after some 70 firefighters battled to contain the blaze, which broke out in the early hours on Sunday.

“The fire was brought under control during the night,” spokesman Jermaine Carelse said on Monday, adding that flames had yet to be extinguished in the oldest part of the building.

Police said a 49-year-old suspect, who was inside the parliament, had been apprehended and would appear in court this week.

“A man has been arrested inside the parliament, he’s still being interrogated. We have opened a criminal case. He has been arrested and will appear in court on Tuesday,” police spokeswoman Thandi Mbambo said.

He is suspected of having tampered with the sprinklers, which failed to activate.

The fire broke out in the parliament complex’s oldest wing, which was completed in 1884 and has wood-panelled rooms. After ravaging the older wing of the building, the flames spread to the newer parts of the complex that are currently in use.

As day dawned, thick plumes of black smoke could be seen enveloping the imposing Victorian facade.

Videos shared on social media showed giant flames leaping from the roof.

Officials said the entire part housing the National Assembly was destroyed.

“The entire chamber where the members sit… has burned down,” parliamentary spokesman Moloto Mothapo said, adding that the blaze had apparently been sparked in two separate areas of the complex.

The roof of the Old Assembly building and parts of the ceiling at the New Assembly building collapsed.

Jean-Pierre Smith, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, told reporters the entire complex had suffered extensive water and fire damage and “nothing” was left of the historic part where parliament had kept treasures, including some 4,000 heritage and artworks, some dating back to the 17th century.

The parliament building houses a collection of rare books and the original copy of the former Afrikaans national anthem Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (The Voice of South Africa), which was already damaged.

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