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Horrific Johannesburg Building Fire Claims 70+ Lives

Published September 21, 2023
8 months ago

The bustling central business district of Johannesburg was struck by calamity when an overnight fire amenaced a dilapidated five-story building, leading to a death toll of at least 74 people out of which 12 were children. According to local government officials, residents inhabiting the labyrinthian interior made up of shacks and makeshift structures in a desperate bid to escape threw themselves out of the windows and many may have died in the process.

Emergency services report the number of residents could have been as high as 200. Thembalethu Mpahlaza, the Gauteng province's head of forensics services, shared the distressing news at a press conference, stating, “Among the 74 bodies…we are having 12 children involved also in this tragedy,”.

Emergency crews persisted throughout the aftermath, with rescue operations slowed due to the precarious conditions inside. The toll is expected to rise as many more bodies are feared to be trapped inside the now gutted building.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, deeply moved by the calamity, urged an immediate investigation into the tragic incident stating, "“I do hope that the investigations into the fire will prevent a repeat of such a tragedy.”

Visible decrepitness and dilapidation are common in the area, often resulting in these structures being occupied by people in desperate search of shelter. These are referred by the city authorities as “hijacked buildings”. The city's emergency management services said there were no regulations within the building, calling for immediate attention to housing conditions.

The actual cause of the fire yet remains undetermined. The building's breakdown required three exhaustive hours before firefighters could contain the disaster. The city suffers from frequent power outages, from which many resort to candles for light and wood fires for heat, further making the situation dire.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress expressed its sorrow over the loss of lives, committing to bring to justice any responsible parties involved in this tragedy.

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