Extent of damage caused by Parliament fire not yet known - CoCT

It's not yet clear what started the blaze that caused extensive damage, including the collapse of parts of the roof and gutting politicians' offices.

City of Cape Town firefighters extinguish a fire at the parliamentary precinct on 2 January 2022. Picture: JP Smith/City of Cape Town

CAPE TOWN - City of Cape Town officials said that the extent of the damage caused by a devastating fire that broke out in Parliament was not yet known.

Fire crews were called out just after 6am on Sunday morning and the first fire truck arrived within five or six minutes.

But by 5pm, during the final briefing for the day by officials, plumes of smoke could still be seen billowing into the air from the National Assembly building.

It's not yet clear what started the blaze that caused extensive damage, including the collapse of parts of the roof and gutting politicians' offices.

GALLERY: South Africa's Parliament building ablaze

However, a 51-year-old man has been arrested. It's also emerged that a valve linked to the sprinkler system had been turned off.

Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Lechesa Tsenoli said that he had no words to express his outrage.

"This is something terrible to have happened at this time in our country's life to have to lose part of this infrastructure here is crazy. It's not the kind of thing that we can afford both politically and otherwise," Tsenoli said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa also briefed the media at Parliament's gates on Sunday, describing the fire as a devastating event.

He praised City of Cape Town fire crews for their hard work, saying that the situation could have been much worse if they didn't respond as quickly as they did.

"Their work has saved a very important public asset of our government. For now, I think we should be grateful that the National Assembly, Parliament has not been razed to ashes," President Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa said that work was being done to find out exactly what happened.

The suspect arrested in connection with the blaze is expected to appear on Tuesday.