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Fire Destroys Much of Cameroon’s Parliament Building

People look at the damaged building of Cameroon's parliament on November 17, 2017 in Yaounde, after a fire swept through the main building overnight, causing substantial damage.

In Cameroon, an investigation is underway into the cause of an overnight fire that destroyed much of the country's parliament. Hundreds of firefighters battled the late night fire ravaging Cameroon’s parliament building.

Sule Ndundat is an official of the fire brigade.

"We met the fourth floor completely consumed by the fire, so we concentrated ourselves on saving what could be saved," said Ndundat.

By daybreak, four of the seven floors had been consumed by the blaze, though no one was harmed.

Issa Tchiroma, Cameroon government spokesperson, says an investigation has been opened but that authorities do not suspect foul play.

"The fire started accidentally. The National Assembly has been always under the protection and safeguard of very well trained, committed and dedicated forces," said Tchiroma. "Parliament, which started two days ago, will continue without being perturbed, without being disturbed."

Timing questioned

The timing of the fire is raising some eyebrows. It happened less than two days after lawmakers from Cameroon’s main opposition party SDF announced they would boycott this session of parliament.

The 15 opposition MP's are demanding the government do more to resolve a year-long strike in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions.

The strike was called to protest the dominance of the country’s French-speaking majority, and has escalated amid a government crackdown and the emergence of separatist groups demanding full independence.

Arson attacks have been a hallmark of the unrest, with dozens of schools, business and public buildings torched in the anglophone regions since January. No one has claimed responsibility. However it is believed the locations that have been burned were targeted for failing to respect the calls to strike.

The opposition SDF lawmakers, many of whom are from the anglophone northwest and the southwest, say they have been threatened and even physically attacked at home for continuing to serve in the National Assembly.