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Residents evacuated as mountain fire spreads in Cape Town

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) – Residents are being evacuated from Cape Town neighborhoods Monday as a wildfire spreading on the slopes of the city’s famed Table Mountain was fanned by strong winds overnight, and houses came under threat.

City authorities said residents of parts of the Vredehoek suburb were being evacuated as a “precautionary” measure after the blaze spread toward the area. Devil’s Peak, one of the iconic mountain points, was lit up in the early morning hours by the flames, which had now spread to the front side of the hill and toward residential areas.

A man in his 30s had been arrested on suspicion of arson, a city official said, although it’s unclear if he was responsible for starting the blaze, which began early Sunday. The man was arrested Sunday night after witnesses reported three people moving through flames on the mountain slopes, setting more fires. Cape Town safety and security official JP Smith told The Associated Press.

mountain fire

More than 250 city and volunteer firefighters have been deployed to battle the fire that has already damaged parts of the University of Cape Town, including the library, a historic windmill, and a restaurant near a memorial for Cecil Rhodes.

Helicopters with water containers suspended on ropes are scooping up water from swimming pools and the nearby ocean and dumping it on the fire.

Wildfires in the mountains surrounding Cape Town are relatively common during the hot, dry summer months but are sometimes fanned into massive, uncontrollable blazes by strong winds.

Gift of the Givers, a disaster response organization, said it provided meals for around 4,000 students evacuated from the university campus. Many of those students were taken to local hotels, Gift of the Givers said. The charity also supplies food and water for firefighters who have been working for more than 24 hours to control the fire. The university said that activities at the university have been shut down until at least Wednesday.

The city said no injuries to residents or students had been reported, but at least one firefighter was hospitalized for burn injuries. Heavy smoke hung over parts of Cape Town, and people were advised to cover their faces with wet towels or rags while being evacuated.

The fire badly damaged the University of Cape Town’s Jagger Library, where important archives and book collections were kept. Cape Town mayor Dan Plato said some valuable works were lost, but many were saved by activated roller doors to seal off parts of the library.

“Tragically, literary treasures have been lost at the UCT library, but I have been informed that some of the most valuable works were saved,” Plato said.

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Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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