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Blaze at South Africa’s parliament contained, suspect due in court

CAPE TOWN, Jan 4 (Reuters) – A new blaze at the complex housing South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town has been contained, officials said on Tuesday, as a suspect arrested in connection with the fire was due to appear in court.

An initial fire on Sunday caused the roof of the New Wing housing the assembly’s lower chamber to collapse. The roof of the Old Wing, which dates back to 1884 and houses the upper chamber, the National Council of Provinces, also partially collapsed. read more

The new blaze broke out on Monday. read more

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“Around midnight the fire was brought under control,” Cape Town city officials said in a statement. “Teams are now working their way through the maize-like building, room-for-room, as they attempt to locate and extinguish (hot spots).”

“This is a lengthy process, as some rooms are needing to have their interior wooden cladding pulled apart, in order to identify any concealed hot spots,” they said.

Parliament said in a statement that only six of the 10 fire trucks were now remaining on the scene and it was hoped that more trucks would be withdrawn during the course of the morning.

“Further damage has been caused, with more floors of the building, which houses offices of Members of Parliament and support staff, being completely gutted,” the statement said.

A 49-year-old man charged with arson and other offences including theft was expected to appear in court on Tuesday.

The elite Hawks police said on Monday the suspect was believed to have gained entry to the parliament through an office window.

The fire swept through the buildings but officials have said important sections including a museum with artworks and heritage objects were saved, as was an embroidered tapestry telling the story of the Eastern Cape on the ground floor of the Old Assembly Building.

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Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Robert Birsel and Michael Perry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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