University of Cape Town Student Describes Fire as 'Apocalyptic, Like a Scene From a Movie'

A student at the University of Cape Town (UCT) recently called the fires that have ravaged the city "apocalyptic" and compared them to a scene from a movie.

While speaking with News 24 in South Africa, Mathew Field, an economics student at the University of Cape Town said the fires were "apocalyptic, like a scene from a movie."

"Students were on campus studying for tests, while others were sleeping at [the residences] when suddenly the sky turned gray and red," Field told News24.

The comments by the University of Cape Town student come shortly after a set of wildfires ignited over parts of South Africa's Table Mountain in Cape Town and eventually spread to the university's campus.

Students were evacuated, but as the fire continued to rage, it damaged parts of the university's historic library that was home to an important African studies collection. The school also canceled all academic activities until the fire is under control and moved students to nearby hotels for safety.

"An unexpected natural disaster struck at the heart of UCT Libraries today and I write this message with a deep sense of sorrow and loss at the havoc and devastation it wrought upon the Reading Room of the Jagger Library," UCT wrote in a statement.

The statement went on to note that the library's fire detection system was able to prevent the fire from spreading further throughout the library but "Some of our valuable collections have been lost, however a full assessment can only be done once the building has been declared safe and we can enter the building."

In a letter sent to students, UCT Vice-Chancellor professor Mamokgethi Phakeng wrote, "Food and emergency accommodation have been arranged for all the students who had to be evacuated earlier today."

University of Cape Town
Firefighters check a burnt house, used as a University of Cape Town students' residence, as a forest fire burns out of control on the foothills of Table Mountain, above the University of Cape Town, in Cape Town on April 18. Rodger Bosch/Getty

In a statement issued on Sunday, Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato confirmed that two firefighters have been injured in combatting the wildfires.

"We commend the firefighters, Disaster Risk Management staff and volunteers, the enforcement staff and every other agency and individual who have played a role in the efforts to contain the fire, and continue to do so," Plato wrote in a statement.

In addition to Field, UCT senior Shayne Greene, a film studies major, also spoke to News24 and said that "everything happened so fast."

"After the very loud [noise] at the restaurant and fire alarms started going off, that is when I knew I needed to get out of there immediately," Greene said acceding to News24.

Newsweek reached out to UCT for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Police in Cape Town said on Monday that they had arrested one man who was suspected of starting the fires.

"One suspect in his 30s was taken into custody last night in the vicinity of Devil's Peak," the City of Cape Town said in a statement.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the Table Mountain National Park confirmed that the "Rhodes Memorial Restaurant has unfortunately burnt down."

"One of the major contributors to the rapid rate of spread was the very old pine trees and their debris. The fire created its own wind that further increased the rate of spread. The excessive amount of smoke and related updrafts made it impossible for the aerial support to slow the rate of spread," the park added in its statement released on Sunday.