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Deadly Johannesburg Fire Under Investigation

Published September 21, 2023
8 months ago

A potentially criminal blaze continues under intensive investigation by city and regional authorities in Johannesburg, after a five-story building - repurposed for illegal housing - was engulfed by fire. More than 70 victims, including children, were claimed by the fire, transforming the once familiar structure into a scene of devastation. An additional 52 individuals suffered injuries in what is set to be one of the most deadly fires globally in recent years.



Gauteng’s MEC for Human Settlements and Infrastructure Development, Lebogang Maile, assured the public that those responsible would face justice. He sternly warned that, should any city official be found complicit through disregard or active contravention of their duties, there would be repercussions.


Remnants of the tragedy were visually disturbing. Burned bodies were found clustered at a security gate that had been shut, barring occupants escape from the conflagration. Making matters worse, the building, located in an impoverished, crime-ridden precinct, was an unsanctioned model of accommodation. The majority of residents were said to be foreign nationals.


Emergency Management Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi confirmed, "We have now 73 fatalities and 52 people injured who were transported to various healthcare facilities for further medical care." Among the victims were at least seven children, the youngest being under two years old. Many of the victims were rendered unrecognizable due to the severity of the burns.



Robert Mulaudzi added that firefighters had optimally controlled the blaze and were conducting further investigations and body recoveries. It has been reported that emergency services are still retrieving the charred remains of victims from the building, marking it as a grim day for Johannesburg.


Local authorities have not yet established the cause of the fire. Mgcini Tshwaku, a member of the City's Mayoral Committee in charge of public safety, pointed out that within the building, candles used for lighting were a likely source of ignition.


"We are moving floor by floor conducting these body recoveries," Mulaudzi said to ENCA.


This tragedy once again underscores the dangerous ramifications of Johannesburg's rampant problem of illegal building occupation, often under the control of criminal organizations. South Africa, as the continent’s most industrialised economy, continues to draw migrants, many undocumented, from fellow African nations.


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