WorldA great fire breaks out in the South African...

A great fire breaks out in the South African Congress and “cracks are already being observed in the walls”

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A great fire, which for several hours dozens of firefighters have been trying to put out without result, was declared this Sunday at the headquarters of the Parliament of South Africa in Cape Town.

Aerial footage from television networks shows huge flames emerging from the ceiling. This large Victorian building, which has several outbuildings, is shrouded in a thick cloud of black smoke.

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At the moment no victim has been reported.

The streets of the residential neighborhood where the Parliament is located have been quickly closed. The security cordon extends to the flowers still on display in the atrium of the neighboring Saint-Georges Cathedral, where the funeral of Desmond Tutu, the last hero of the anti-apartheid struggle, who died on December 26, was held the day before. The same morning his ashes had been buried in the church, during a private ceremony.

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Thick plume of smoke

The fire started in an old Parliament building around 03:00 GMT.

“The roof caught fire and the National Assembly building also caught fire,” A city security spokesman, Jean-Pierre Smith, told AFP, calling for reinforcements.

A thick plume of smoke was visible from several kilometers away, according to AFP journalists. People in Cape Town, shocked to wake up to this fire, quickly shared photos on social media.

Hours after the fire was visible from the highway, backup fire trucks arrived. About 80 firefighters are currently on the scene.

From a crane, firefighters with water hoses tried to calm the flames.

“The fire has not been controlled and there are cracks in the walls”, Smith added.

“The fire is currently on the third floor and the first signs suggest that it started in the offices before spreading to the gym”, explained.

Fire crews fear that the fire will spread rapidly in the former rooms of the Parliament, adorned with thick rugs and draperies. The exact origin of the fire is not yet known.

Historic building

In this massive red brick, white-fronted Victorian building, the last apartheid-era president, FW de Klerk, announced in February 1990 the end of the racist regime.

Cape Town already suffered a major fire in April, on Table Mountain, which destroyed the treasures of the library of a prestigious university.

Cape Town is the seat of Parliament, made up of the National Assembly and an upper house called the National Council of Provinces. The government is based in Pretoria.

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