Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Authorities say dozens of firefighters are battling flames that have flared up again after destroying the parliament hall.

The fire that already has completely destroyed South Africa’s main parliament hall flared up again on Monday, about 36 hours after it started in the 130-year-old complex of historic buildings, authorities said.

“The fire and rescue service confirms that the fire flared up in parliament. The void under the roof of the National Assembly is on fire, “a spokesman for the city’s fire services said on Monday afternoon.

Al Jazeera’s Jillian Wolf, who reports from Cape Town, said about 50 firefighters were on scene to fight the blaze.

Sunday’s fire caused the roof of the New Wing, which houses the National Assembly in the lower chamber, to collapse. The roof of the Old Wing, which dates from 1884 and houses the upper chamber of the National Council of Provinces (NROP), also partially collapsed.

“There will be significant costs associated with the renovation of this building. The inside of the national assembly is completely unrecognizable. “Everything that could have destroyed the fire was destroyed,” said Al Jazeera’s Wolf.

Flames and smoke rise over a roof as the fire in parliament flares up again, in Cape Town, South Africa, 3 January 2022 [Sumaya Hisham/Reuters]

Police have charged a 49-year-old man with arson and other offenses, including theft, and he is expected to appear in court on Tuesday.

The speaker of the National Assembly said arson if confirmed would represent an attack on the country’s democracy.

“This is a very abnormal kind of situation,” said Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

“The question that even a young child would ask is: ‘How is it possible that the fire that originated in some part of the Old Assembly would find its way to the new room? We do not know, “she told a news conference.

Earlier Monday, before the flames flared up again, the number of firefighters at the scene was reduced from 70 to just a dozen, as only a few sources of the fire remained. They were dealing with remaining “hotspots”, Jermaine Carelse, spokesperson for the Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service, told the News 24 website.

The minister in charge, Patricia de Lille, said earlier that the heat in the building had dropped from 400 to 100 degrees Celsius (752 to 212 Fahrenheit). It was therefore not yet possible for investigators to enter the complex.

Security breach

In a separate statement, an elite police unit known as the Hawks said the suspect allegedly gained access to parliament through a window in one of the offices and investigations are continuing into the case.

“There is a possibility that other charges will be added as there was a security breach here,” Hawks spokesman Nomthandazo Mbambo told eNCA television.

Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula said President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech to parliament – currently set for February 10 – would continue, lawmakers would continue to debate and approve the budget and committees would continue their work.

Jean-Pierre Smith, a Cape Town mayoral committee member responsible for safety and security, said the inside of the National Assembly had been destroyed by fire, water and smoke.

A preliminary report on potential costs and timelines for refurbishment is expected on Friday, the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure said.

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