CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Apr 21 (IPS) – Cape Town-based photojournalist Yazeed Kamaldien reported on a massive mountain fire that broke out on Sunday on Table Mountain and near residential areas on its foothills. By this morning, Wednesday 21 April, officials said the fire had been extinguished after three grueling days for firefighters. Firefighters are still monitoring on the ground for any flare-ups.
South African National Parks, which manages the Table Mountain area, estimates that the fire destroyed 600 hectares of land. A total 135 firefighters were dispatched along with 125 mountain rangers and an additional 170 fire and rescue workers.
While there were no deaths in the blaze, at least 4,000 students from the University of Cape Town were evacuated from their university residences. Locals have been assisting students with meals and other necessities.
Residents living on the Table Mountain slopes also had to evacuate their homes as the fire reached closer to their doors. Firefighting teams were deployed to extinguish the flames.
Heritage sites and university buildings were damaged and destroyed. Of the 11 affected buildings, seven are in the University of Cape Town campus.
Among these was the J.W. Jagger Library, which housed special collections that are well over a hundred years old. Other destroyed landmarks are the Mostert Mill and the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant.
Local police have arrested and charge with arson a vagrant while two other suspects are still being sought.