According to South African officials an “out of control” fire is currently burning through Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park, and has already damaged a multitude of buildings. An evacuation of hikers has already been enforced for the park overall; which is also known as Cape Town’s most famous landmark.
A spokesperson for the Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services spoke with the media late Sunday night to discuss how two firefighters had been injured and admitted to the hospital so far, and nine building structures were completely destroyed in the initial blaze. As of right now no further injuries or damages have been reported, but rescue workers are worried about containment efforts.
Jermaine Carelse, the spokesperson for Cape Town’s fire and rescue services, explained how 200 firefighters were dispatched to battle the fire, and they have been continuously working all night to combat the blaze. Four rescue helicopters have also been deployed to help with rescue operations.
“The fire created its own wind that further increased the rate of spread. The excessive amount of smoke and related updrafts made it impossible for the aerial support to slow the rate of spread.”
According to a tweet from the South African National Parks Table Mountain National Park account, “the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant had burnt down and the fire had also spread to the veld above the University of Cape Town upper campus. Six buildings near Woolsack Drive, including the Mostert’s Mill and three structures at the University of Cape Town, were destroyed.”
Carelse also told the media that Mostert’s Mill, a historic windmill near the University of Cape Town which was built in 1796, was also badly damaged by the fire.
One woman in the park was interviewed after showing a video that depicted her trying to outrun the fire as plumes of smoke took up the background sky. Lisette Lombard, the individuals who took the video, said she was safe but her car had been “destroyed. Never have I experienced a fire that spread so unpredictably fast. I have so much respect for our firefighters.”
According to a statement from South Africa’s National Parks, a “vacated vagrant fire may have been responsible for the blaze. After the initial investigation, it is surmised that the origin of the fire is from a vacated vagrant fire. Due to the extreme Fire Danger Index for today, which is Red with temperatures of 36 degrees noted and an extremely low relative humidity of under 10%, the fire spread rapidly in the direction of Rhodes Memorial.”
Carelse explained that the fire has been greatly “fanned by wind, so it spread from the vicinity of Philip Kgosana Drive, which borders Table Mountain National Park, to Rhodes Memorial where it continued further towards University of Cape Town buildings.”
Sources claim that the fire could take days to fully put out, and earlier on Sunday, the National Park’s Twitter account had requested that “onlookers refrain from entering the area and that all hikers within the Newlands and Rhodes Memorial area evacuate immediately.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.