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Table Mountain wildfire in South Africa threatens University of Cape Town

University of Cape Town students were forced to evacuate on Sunday as flames set several campus buildings on fire.
/ Source: Reuters

CAPE TOWN - A wildfire on the slopes of South Africa's Table Mountain forced University of Cape Town students to evacuate on Sunday, as runaway flames set several campus buildings ablaze and firefighters used helicopters to water-bomb the area.

One firefighter sustained burn wounds and was hospitalized for treatment, officials said.

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire in the University of Cape Town's library after a forest fire came down the foothills of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, on April 18, 2021.
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire in the University of Cape Town's library after a forest fire came down the foothills of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, on April 18, 2021.Rodger Bosch / AFP - Getty Images

The fire started early on Sunday near a memorial to politician Cecil Rhodes, located on Devils Peak, another part of Cape Town's mountainous backdrop, before spreading rapidly up the slopes.

Heavy smoke could be seen for miles away, some roads were closed and fire alerts were sent to mountain hikers.

"All UCT students have been evacuated from campus by emergency services support staff," the university said in a statement.

Firefighters battle flames at the University of Cape Town's library after a bushfire broke out on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, on April 18, 2021.
Firefighters battle flames at the University of Cape Town's library after a bushfire broke out on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, on April 18, 2021.Mike Hutchings / Reuters

The university, ranked among the best on the continent, is largely built on the slopes of Devil's Peak and is situated close to where the fire started.

Social media footage showed students milling around on the main road, amid billowing smoke fanned by strong winds. Another video, tweeted by the local government, showed flames raging inside an old building lined with columns as smoke plumes rose from its roof.

City officials said they have not asked residents in the popular Rondesbosch suburb and surrounding area to evacuate.

"The situation is being monitored and staff will go door-to-door in the event that evacuation is required," officials said.

Helicopters battle to contain a bushfire that broke out on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, on April 18, 2021.
Helicopters battle to contain a bushfire that broke out on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, on April 18, 2021.Mike Hutchings / Reuters