LISTEN | Parliament blaze spreads as wind causes chaos for firefighters

Fire at the parliament building in Cape Town is starting to get close to trees just metres from Tuynhuys, says the office of the president

03 January 2022 - 16:58
By Orrin Singh
The roof of parliament in Cape Town reignited on Monday afternoon.
Image: Moloto Mothapo via Twitter The roof of parliament in Cape Town reignited on Monday afternoon.

The blaze which tore through parliament in Cape Town was threatening to spread to the official office of the president, Tuynhuys, after it reignited on Monday evening.

The blaze had "engulfed the entire roof" earlier in the evening, with the fire now spreading due to being fanned by strong winds.

JP Smith, the City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security, said on Monday night that the fourth and fifth floors of the new wing, above the National Assembly, were "completely gutted".

"Wind taking flames close to palm trees in Company Gardens, 10m from Tuynhuys. Crews are working in dampening down vegetation separating both buildings. Heavy duty, aerial firefighting appliances have just arrived, that can operate within the current strong winds," he said.

Firefighting efforts were ongoing.

Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo confirmed on Monday afternoon that the building had reignited.

"[The] fire has just re-emerged and it's now engulfing the entire roof of the National Assembly. It's inexplicable, as we thought it's been put out completely,” he said.

At around 8pm, Cape Town fire and rescue spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said the roof was still "fully engulfed in flames".

There were 60 firefighters on scene along with 10 fire appliances.

"The fire was fanned by a strong southeasterly wind, an element we can't control," said Carelse.

He told journalists: "I can actually say with some certainty [in] three to four hours that some normality will be restored."

Carelse also confirmed that the fire had “flared up”.

“The void beneath the roof sheeting of the National Assembly is on fire. There are six  firefighting appliances on the scene, as well as the hydraulic platform from Roeland Street fire station.”

There were 34 firefighters busy on the scene, he said.

Smith said earlier the wind had become steadily stronger, which "ignited the smouldering wood inside the roof void space, parts of which are not accessible for dousing or dampening".

The strategy, he said, was to "contain the current fire area above the fourth and fifth floor.

"The fire is not contained," he added.

In a statement, parliament said: "The almost two-day brave and courageous battle by firefighters against the flames that gutted various buildings of parliament suffered a set-back when flames suddenly flared up from the roof of the building this afternoon.

"The resurgence of the fire follows earlier information from firefighters regarding the risky high temperature levels at the gutted buildings."

The presiding officers — National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces chair Amos Masondo — said reinforcement firefighters had been called in.

"The presiding officers continue to be encouraged by the resilience, courage and bravery of the firefighters in their battle to bring the fire under complete control," they said.