A huge fire that destroyed much of South Africa’s parliament has been brought under control, firefighters said, a day before a suspect is due to appear in court over the blaze.
fire broke out early yesterday In the oldest wing of the Parliament complex, dozens of crews battled throughout the day to put out the fire.
«The fire was brought under control during the night,» spokesman Jermaine Karls said, adding that the fire was still burning in the part of the building where it began, which was completed in 1884 and contains wood-panelled rooms.
Officials said the entire section of the National Assembly had been destroyed.
«The National Assembly building was most damaged,» said Carles. «That won’t be used for months.»
Earlier, parliament spokesman Moloto Muthabu said the roof of the National Assembly had collapsed and the fires were «extremely intense» in that part of the building, which prompted firefighters to withdraw.
«The whole room where the members are sitting…burned,» he said.
There were no reports of injuries.
President Cyril Ramaphosa told reporters at the scene yesterday that a man had been detained and the building’s sprinkler systems appeared to have failed.
A man was arrested inside Parliament, and is still being questioned. «We have opened a criminal case,» police spokeswoman Tandy Mbambo said, adding that the suspect would appear in court tomorrow.
Parliament House houses a collection of rare books and the original copy of the former African National Anthem «Die Stem van Suid-Afrika» («The Voice of South Africa»), which has already been damaged.
The full extent of fire damage is still being assessed.
Parliament Speakers were scheduled to meet today with Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille to assess the damage.
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Jean-Pierre Smith, a member of the Cape Town municipality’s safety and security committee, told reporters that the entire complex had suffered extensive water and fire damage and «nothing» was left from the historical part.
This is where Parliament kept treasures including some 4,000 works of heritage and art, some of which date back to the 17th century.
These include the 120-meter (390-foot) Kiskama tapestry, which is named after a river in the country’s southeast, tracing the history of South Africa from the first indigenous peoples, the San, to the historic 1994 democratic elections.
After the old wing of the building was destroyed, the flames spread to new parts of the complex that are currently in use.
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