Photos show a wildfire in Cape Town, South Africa, which destroyed historic university buildings and forced students to evacuate

Bill Bostock
·3 min read
South Africa Cape town university wildfire
Firefighters seen on the foothills of Table Mountain on April 18, 2021. RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images
  • A fire broke out on Cape Town's Table Mountain on Sunday and spread to a major university.

  • A restaurant, a 200-year-old windmill, and a library were destroyed. 4,000 students were evacuated.

  • Authorities have reportedly taken a person into custody.

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A wildfire that started Cape Town's Table Mountain spread to a nearby university's campus, destroying historic buildings and forcing 4,000 students to evacuate, reports say.

The fire began in Table Mountain's foothills on Sunday morning and reached the University of Cape Town campus, according to the South African National Parks service.

In the devastation, a restaurant was destroyed, a university library was gutted, and South Africa's oldest working windmill - the 225-year old Mostert's Mill - burned down, according to reports.

south africa fire mostert's mill
The historic Mostert's Mill smolders on April 18, 2021, after a wildfire in Cape Town. Mike Hutchings/Reuters
TOPSHOT - Firefighters try, in vain, to extinguish a fire in the Jagger Library, at the University of Cape Town, after a forest fire came down the foothills of Table Mountain, setting university buildings alight in Cape Town, on April 18, 2021. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP) (Photo by RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images)
The University of Cape Town's Jagger Library seen aflame on April 18, 2021. RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images

At least 200 firefighters attended the blaze, and three fire fighters were hospitalized with burns, J.P. Smith, a Cape Town security official, told The Washington Post.

The South African National Parks service, which oversees the Table Mountain heritage site, said that preliminary findings suggested the wildfire was started by a "vacated vagrant fire."

Local media reported Monday that city's law enforcement had placed one person in custody in connection with the origins of the blaze.

south africa cape town fire
Flames are seen close to Cape Town after a bushfire broke out on the slopes of Table Mountain, on April 19, 2021. Mike Hutchings/Reuters

The University of Cape Town's Jagger Library was severely damaged, but many valuable treasures were saved, the city's mayor said.

"I have been informed that some of the most valuable works were saved by the quick activation of roller doors. Our attention and support remains with firefighters and all role players working to protect further loss of property," Mayor Dan Plato of Cape Town said.

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On Sunday, the university said in a statement that it had suspended all academic activities until April 20.

"For safety reasons, campus will be locked down and no one, other than emergency services, will be allowed access. We are all anxious about the extent of the damage to the Rondebosch campus," said Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, the university's vice chancellor.

Around 4,000 students were evacuated on Sunday, The Guardian reported.

vFirefighters douse the destroyed Jagger Library at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Sunday, April 18, 2021.
Firefighters douse the destroyed Jagger Library at the University of Cape Town on April 18, 2021. AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht

As of Monday morning, the fire was still ongoing. The blaze had moved past the university campus, and spread toward the area of Vredehoek, the city of Cape Town wrote on its official Twitter page.

This picture taken in Cape Town on April 18, 2021 shows an old tree burning on the inside as a forest fire burns out of control on the foothills of Table Mountain, above the University of Cape Town. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP) (Photo by RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images)
An old tree burning on the slopes of Table Mountain on April 18, 2021. RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images

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