An “uncontrolled” fire is burning in Cape Town National Park in Cape Town, damaging buildings and leading to the evacuation of hikers from the city’s most famous landmark, South African officials said on Sunday.
Two firefighters were injured and admitted to the hospital and nine structures were destroyed in the fire, Jermaine Carelse, a spokesman for the Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services, told CNN in an email on Sunday.
About 200 firefighters were dispatched to fight the huge fire, Carelse said, adding that they will work at night to contain the fire and work on the line of fire.
Four helicopters were also sent to aid efforts, according to a tweet from an account associated with the park.
“The fire created its own wind that further increased the rate of propagation. The excessive amount of smoke and related upward currents made it impossible for air support to decrease the rate of propagation,” according to a tweet from the South African National Parks Table Mountain National Park account.
The statement said the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant was set on fire and “the fire also spread to the savannah above the upper campus of the University of Cape Town”.
Six buildings near Woolsack Drive, including the Mostert Mill and three structures at the University of Cape Town, were destroyed, Carelse told CNN.
Mostert’s Mill, a historic windmill near the University of Cape Town built around 1796, was also seriously damaged by the fire, according to Carelse.
A woman in the park said she was “trying to escape the fire” in a video posted on Twitter, which showed a cloud of smoke in the background. In a later tweet, Lisette Lombard said she was safe, but her car had been “destroyed”.
“I have never experienced a fire that spread so unpredictably and quickly. I have so much respect for our firefighters,” he added.
Strong smoke rises from Table Mountain in Cape Town.
According to a statement from the National Parks of South Africa, an “unoccupied vagabond fire” may have been responsible for the fire.
“After the initial investigation, it is assumed that the source of the fire is an unoccupied wandering fire. Due to the extreme fire hazard index for today, which is red with temperatures of 36 degrees observed and an extremely low relative humidity of less than 10%, the fire spread quickly towards the Rhodes Memorial “, says the statement.
Firefighting days ahead
Shaken by the wind, the fire spread from the surroundings of Philip Kgosana Drive, which borders the National Mountain Park, to the Rhodes Memorial, continuing towards the buildings of the University of Cape Town, Jermaine Carelse, spokesman for the Cape Town Fire and Rescue, he told CNN.
Authorities were first notified at around 8:45 am local time (2:45 pm ET), he said.
The battle against the flames could last for days, according to a media release shared by a Twitter account associated with the park.
“This is not an easy fire, which is likely to see firefighters fighting the fire for at least (sic) three days,” the statement said.
Hikers were instructed to evacuate the area.
Earlier on Sunday, the National Park Twitter account had asked viewers to “avoid entering the area” and for all hikers within the Newlands and Rhodes Memorial area to evacuate immediately.
Table Mountain is a flat-roofed mountain overlooking Cape Town and is a major tourist attraction. The National Park covers 25,000 hectares and is home to 8,200 species of plants, according to its website.