Fire in South African Parliament: Roof collapses, causing significant damage throughout campus

Images of the scene showed flames emanating from the top of a building, sending dense black smoke into the sky above Parliament and into neighboring streets.

Dozens of firefighters were involved in putting out the blaze Sunday morning and it was not yet under control until the afternoon. No injuries or damage were reported.

“The entire parliament complex is badly damaged, the water is stagnant and the smoke is damaging,” said J.P. Smith told a news conference before parliament.

“The roof of the old assembly hall is completely gone and the adjoining offices and gymnasium have been demolished,” Smith said. “The National Assembly room behind me was burned down, the structural ceiling collapsed and firefighters were called back shortly after.”

South Africa’s parliament said the fire was contained in the old section of the complex, but it is still burning in the new section, where the chamber of the National Assembly – which is under the parliament – is located.

The fire started in the office area of ​​the premises and spread to the National Assembly Room. Firefighters arrived at the scene after 6 a.m. There were some difficulties in gaining access due to security features in the building, Smith said.

Smith said the fire alarm system was not working properly because firefighters were at the scene before the system alarm went off.

“The power supply to the premises was not cut off when the fire broke out. This created a very dangerous situation and the power supply to the entire block was cut off. The fire detection equipment took some time to operate so the fire was active for some time,” he added.

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

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

Smith said Sunday’s fire was more serious than any other fire in parliament in March 2021. In the March incident, a fire broke out in the old assembly and no one was injured.

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