Cape Town, April 19: South Africa's iconic tourist destination and biodiversity hotspot Table Mountain is on fire, which led to the evacuation of visitors and students of the nearby University of Cape Town, sources said.
The fire had spread from Rhodes Memorial, which was in memory to British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes, towards the University of Cape Town, it said, urging people not to enter the area, reports Xinhua news agency.
The blaze was seen from roads and neighbourhoods close to the mountain, and residents living more than 15 km away clearly witnessed heavy smoke rising from the scene.
South African National Parks (SANParks), which manages the Table Mountain National Park, warned that the fire "is currently out of control" and urged all hikers within the memorial, and Newlands, north of the memorial to evacuate with immediate effect and cars parked within these sections to move as a matter of urgency.
Due to the high temperature and extremely low relative humidity, the fire "spread rapidly" in the direction of Rhodes Memorial, it said, adding that old pine trees and their debris were a major contributor to the rapid spread.
The excessive amount of smoke and related updrafts made it impossible for the aerial support to slow the rate of spread, and 129 firefighters are still fighting with the blaze, with more crews expected to join, said the SANParks.
Four helicopters from Table Mountain National Park and the city are operating in the area, as well as numerous water tankers and firefighting vehicles.
The Rhodes Memorial restaurant has burnt down and the fire has spread to the veld above the University of Cape Town campus and to areas below the M3 road, according to the SANParks.
The University of Cape Town confirmed that all its students have been evacuated from campus by emergency services support staff.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, which lies against the eastern slopes of the mountain, as well as a major road linked to the mountain were closed due to the fire.