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South Africa’s Parliament fire flares up again

The fire has affected both the National Assembly Wing and the Old Assembly Wing built-in 1885, which houses the upper house National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

IANS | Cape Town |

The fire service of South Africa’s legislative capital Cape Town said that the blaze at Parliament, which erupted two days ago, has flared up again.

In a statement, the service said that the void beneath the roof sheeting of the building of the National Assembly, the lower house, was on fire and about 34 firefighters were busy battling it, reports Xinhua news agency.

On Monday morning, the city government said the fire service has scaled-down resources from 9 p.m. on Sunday night, and the fire in the building was under control except on the fourth floor, which was still smoldering.

The fire has affected both the National Assembly Wing and the Old Assembly Wing built-in 1885, which houses the upper house National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

The old wing’s fire was contained on Sunday.

The interior of the National Assembly building was “extensively destroyed,” and the structural ceiling of the National Assembly Wing collapsed.

The fire gutted the third floor of the old wing, including the office space and the gym, and its roof partially collapsed.

The fire led to the “complete burning down” of the chamber of the National Assembly, Chairperson of the NCOP Amos Masondo told reporters here.

It is “one of the biggest losses” caused by the fire, said Masondo.

The lower house’s chamber in the National Assembly building built between 1983 and 1985 was used to host plenary sittings of the National Assembly and the joint sittings of the two houses.

Masondo, however, said some important sections were saved, including NCOP Chamber and offices, the Parliament Library, the Museum including artworks and heritage objects as well as the Keiskama tapestry, an embroidery telling the history of South Africa on the ground floor of the Old Assembly Building.

He said the multi-agency and multi-pronged investigations are underway and will be in full swing once the whole building is declared safe and handed over to the investigation team.

“We wish to assure all the people in South Africa that we will leave no stone unturned to enable appropriate actions to be taken by all relevant authorities,” said Masondo.

According to him, a multidisciplinary team of professional engineers has arrived in Parliament to determine the cause of the fire, the extent of damage, safety of the building, and the estimated cost as well as timelines for repairs.

South African Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia De Lille also told reporters that the team of engineers includes electrical, structural, and mechanical engineers, and they focus on repairs that need to be done, the cost of the repairs, and the timeframe for the repairs.

A fire expert, together with a fire forensic team, on Monday, started to determine where exactly the fire started and a preliminary report is expected to be presented by Friday morning, she said.

The cause of the blaze is still unknown and one person has been arrested in connection.