F.Lamb, smoke, chaos, destruction: In South Africa’s tourist metropolis Cape Town, a major fire that has raged since the weekend has caused severe damage. The university campus was also affected – thousands of students had to flee their accommodations in a hurry. A university spokesman spoke of a picture of devastation.
Several historical buildings – including a library with valuable historical books, but also South Africa’s oldest windmill – were destroyed by the fire. It was blazing on a flank of Cape Town’s landmark, Table Mountain. Several schools were evacuated in the Zonnebloem district. “There is ash everywhere, smoke everywhere,” headmistress Heather Calmeyer told reporters on site. Many parents found it difficult to pick up their children because numerous traffic axes were closed.
Strong winds made it difficult to use the fire-fighting helicopter. Authorities called for the inner city, threatened by the flames, to be kept away for the time being. “This fire will keep us busy for days,” said Philip Prins of the National Park Administration on Table Mountain.
After several fire-fighting helicopters were in action the day before, this was impossible on Monday morning, not only because of the poor visibility. “We have wind speeds between 45 and 50 kilometers per hour,” said Prins to the TV station eNCA. Hundreds of firefighters fought the flames, some of whom were injured during the operation.
According to rescue services, the fire broke out on Sunday morning. The cause was probably a campfire lit by a homeless person, it said. A spokesman for the city said on camera that a man around 30 years old had been arrested and confessed to starting a fire.
Witnesses observed him along with two other homeless people and alerted the authorities. He faces arson charges. “It is possible that he started a boiling fire that got out of control,” said the spokesman. However, witnesses said there were other fires set by the men.
Table Mountain and the national park surrounding it are under nature protection. Serious fires are common in South Africa’s dry season. However, this year’s season, which ran from mid-November to April, was the first severe fire in the region.
A spokesman for the University of Cape Town spoke of devastating damage to the campus and numerous buildings. The university is closed for the time being. The major fire could have an impact on the academic year that was already marked by the corona pandemic.
An hour-long fire in one of the largest hospitals in the country in Johannesburg, which has been evacuated and locked for at least seven days, had an impact on medical care. On Monday it became known that the structural damage to the supporting pillars could make a longer closure of the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital necessary.
This fire broke out in a medical device storage room on Friday morning. The hospital, designed for over 1000 beds, is one of the largest hospitals in the metropolis. The extinguishing work was made more difficult by problems with water hydrants.
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