A wildfire spread to the University of Cape Town campus Sunday, destroying a library reading room that houses important collections in African studies, The New York Times reported.
A curator confirmed an African film collection, one of the largest anywhere in the world, was destroyed in the fire.
University officials said they would conduct a full assessment of what was lost when the building is declared safe. They were hopeful that the bulk of the African studies archive, which is stored two floors belowground and protected by fire doors, might have been spared.
Around 4,000 students were evacuated from residence halls Sunday, and the university temporarily suspended operations.
“We all share a deep sense of grief for what we have lost,” Cape Town’s vice chancellor, Mamokgethi Phakeng, said in a written statement Monday. “We join our colleagues at UCT Libraries, and academics around the world, in lamenting the destruction of the Jagger Library Reading Room and the priceless collections that were stored in the archives.”
Phakeng added that other campus buildings had also been damaged. “We are assessing the damage and will provide further updates as we are able.”