Cape Town authorities said on Monday that they have arrested a man believed to be responsible for starting a blaze that has torn through the South African city’s Table Mountain, destroying historic buildings and forcing people to flee for their lives.
The city spokesperson said the man, who is about 30, has confessed to lighting a fire and that he is facing arson charges. Witnesses had seen him together with two other homeless people before the fire.
But the capture of the man did little to change the fact that strong winds on Monday were thwarting efforts by fire crews to bring the blaze under control.
A spokesperson for Cape Town University, which is located in the area, spoke of scenes of devastation.
“This fire is going to continue for days,” said Philip Prins, fire manager at Table Mountain National Park. “This morning we’re bringing in fresh crews.”
It was not clear if fire crews would bring in helicopter brigades as they’d done when the blaze broke out at the weekend. Prins noted strong winds that could prove a problem.
More than 120 firefighters spent the night fighting the blaze. Two of them were reported injured. Authorities have urged people to stay away from the city centre, which is also threatened by the flames.
Several buildings of the university as well as a library with rare books were destroyed by the flames on Sunday. Hundreds of students living on campus have been evacuated, the city and university said.
South Africa’s oldest windmill, the Mostert’s Mill built in 1796, was also burned to the ground.
South Africa is suffering through a seasonal drought, increasing the likelihood of fires breaking out. However, it was the first serious fire in the region in this year’s season, which runs from mid-November to April.
Table Mountain is the landmark of Cape Town and is protected conservation area.