Cape Town fire burns university library, students evacuated

Firefighters work to douse a burning building at the University of Cape Town on Sunday. CREDIT:AP

Johannesburg: 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 on Sunday while firefighters sprayed jets of water to douse the blaze.

At least two floors of Jagger Library, which houses priceless African-studies collections, including unique manuscripts and personal papers, were burnt.

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

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.

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

Heavy smoke engulfing the area forced the closure of a major highway and other nearby roads, as well as the evacuation of hikers on the mountain and in the park, the nearby Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and hundreds of students living on campus.

More than 200 firefighters and emergency personnel supported by four helicopters and a spotter aircraft battled the blaze, which continued to burn late on Sunday. Three firefighters were taken to hospital with serious burns, J.P. Smith, a security official, said.

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