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Fire destroys South Africa parliament complex

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A large fire caused significant damage to buildings in South Africa’s parliament complex in Cape Town on Sunday morning. Photo courtesy Parliament of the Republic of South Africa/Twitter
A large fire caused significant damage to buildings in South Africa’s parliament complex in Cape Town on Sunday morning. Photo courtesy Parliament of the Republic of South Africa/Twitter

Jan. 2 (UPI) -- A large fire caused significant damage to buildings in South Africa's parliament complex in Cape Town on Sunday morning.

A 51-year-old man has been taken into custody for questioning in connection with the fire, which destroyed the chamber of the National Assembly, according to the South African Police Service.

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The fire affected the Old Assembly Wing and the National Assembly Wing, which house both Houses of Parliament, and burned through the National Assembly chamber, according to a news release from parliament.

Firefighters arrived at parliament within six minutes of the fire being reported and have been able to contain the blaze in the old wing but were still battling flames in the new wing, officials said. No injuries have been reported.

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JP Smith, a Cape Town mayoral committee member, told a news conference that the parliament complex is "severely damaged, waterlogged and smoke damaged," CNN reported.

"The roof above the old assembly hall is completely gone and the offices adjacent to it and the gym are destroyed," Smith said. "The National Assembly chamber behind me, which you can see, is gutted, the structural ceiling has collapsed, and the fire staff had to be momentarily withdrawn."

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South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the scene of the fire Sunday and called the blaze "devastating news" particularly after the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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"This is a terrible and devastating event -- particularly after we gave [Desmond Tutu] the best sendoff yesterday," Ramaphosa said. "To wake up to the devastating news of the burning down of the national assembly of parliament is just really a terrible step back. The work of parliament will carry on."

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