Great Britain

Students evacuate Cape Town university as fire damages historic buildings

A wildfire raging on the slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain spread to the University of Cape Town, burning the historic campus library and forcing the evacuation of students.

Orange flames lit up the windows of the library that houses considerable archives and book collections while firefighters sprayed jets of water to douse the blaze. At least two floors of Jagger Library burned, according to local news reports.

Other campus buildings also caught fire, and a historic windmill nearby burned.

Just off-campus on the slopes of Table Mountain, wind spread the flames across dry brush, and part of the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant caught fire, Cape Town media reported.

Private homes and historical structures such as the Mostert’s Hill windmill had also been damaged in the fire, said a statement from the city authorities.

The historic Mostert’s Mill smoulders as firefighters battle to contain a fire, in Cape Town
The historic Mostert’s Mill smoulders as firefighters battle to contain a fire, in Cape Town
Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

More than 100 firefighters and emergency personnel were deployed to the university campus and to Table Mountain National Park. Four helicopters were being used to drop water on threatened areas, officials said.

One firefighter was injured and being treated at a hospital, according to the Cape Town fire and rescue department.

Residents have been cautioned to be on alert, Charlotte Powell, spokesperson for the city’s disaster risk management centre, said in a statement.

“At this stage, there’s no cause to evacuate, but we ask that residents adhere to the following: close all windows to prevent draft and reduce heat, damp down your garden using a hose or irrigation system,” Powell said.

Helicopters battle a bushfire that broke out on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town
Helicopters battle a bushfire that broke out on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Table Mountain National Park, which spreads over much of the city’s unbuilt area, called on social media for hikers to leave the area and for motorists to remove cars parked in the vicinity.

A first alert went up shortly before 9am (0700 GMT), city authorities said.

Three helicopters joined the fight, dumping water on the inferno, they added.

Agence France-Presse and Associated Press contributed to this report

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