WATCH: Century-old Dutch Reformed church on West Coast destroyed in fire
A Dutch Reformed church in Redelinghuys, a village in the Bergrivier Local Municipality in the Western Cape, about 160km north of Cape Town, was completely destroyed in a fire on Tuesday morning.
The church's cornerstone was laid in 1918.
Several residents posted pictures of the burning church building on social media and WhatsApp.
Bertus Senekal, chief fire officer of the West Coast district, told News24 that emergency services had responded to reports of a fire at the church between 07:00 and 08:00.
"When we arrived on the scene, the church was engulfed by flames. Because of structural damage caused by the fire, it was considered unsafe to enter the building, so we tried to extinguish the fire from the outside."
By around 10:30, Senekal had received confirmation that the fire had been extinguished.
Senekal said the church building was completely destroyed, but no one was injured.
"We are now waiting for forensics to establish what had caused the fire. But eyewitnesses reported that they had seen smoke billowing from the church tower earlier this morning. So speculation would have it that there could have been a short-circuit in the tower, as it houses cellphone-related equipment."
Local community leader Billy Claassen told News24 that there was no cellphone reception in the town owing to the tower being destroyed.
"The church tower housed cellphone transmitters of MTN and Vodacom, as well as [internet service provider] Openserve," Claassen said.
Senekal said the area had been cordoned off, as the building was considered unsafe and could collapse.
"There's a good chance that the weight of the bell will cause the tower to collapse, so we have closed surrounding roads as a precaution."