South African emergency workers have started evacuating three 17-storey residential buildings overlooking Cape Town city as a wildfire fanned by strong winds continues to burn out of control along Table Mountain, city officials said on Monday.
The fire started early Sunday morning on the slopes of Devils’ Peak, another part of Cape Town’s mountainous backdrop, forcing University of Cape Town students to evacuate residences as runaway flames set several campus buildings ablaze, including a library housing historic books and scripts.
“After the initial investigation, it is surmised that the origin of the fire is from a vacated vagrant fire,” South African National Parks said.
Around 250 firefighters are battling to control the blaze, as strong winds ground helicopters normally used in firebombing sorties. A thick plume of smoke is obscuring visibility throughout the city centre, according to Reuters.
Other properties damaged include the popular hikers’ restaurant at Rhodes memorial and the thatch-roofed Mostert Mill, built around 1796 and South Africa’s oldest working mill.
Residents in the area have been warned of smoke and soot in the air, and told to keep windows and doors closed.
Meanwhile, hikers in the Table Mountain National Park have been urged to leave and drivers who have parked in the area have been told to collect their vehicles.
City officials confirmed one suspect was detained last night on Devil’s Peak amid speculation that additional fires may have been started and whether the original fire was deliberately lit in an act of arson.
[Featured Image Hetty Images]