Friday, May 24, 2024

74 dead in Johannesburg blaze

(BBC News) At least 74 people have died — including 12 children — in a Johannesburg building fire.

More than 50 others were injured.

Officials say it is unclear what sparked the blaze at the city centre five-storey building, which had been abandoned but was being occupied by homeless people.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called it a “tragedy”, adding that the “unprecedented” incident was a “wake-up call”.

In a news conference at the site of the fire, Ramaphosa commended emergency services, who arrived at the scene 10 minutes after the fire was reported.

Ten of the bodies recovered from the fire were unidentifiable, a representative of the health department told the news conference.

Johannesburg city manager Floyd Brink said 200 families were affected by the fire and “all efforts” were taken to provide accommodation.

Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda said displaced survivors would have temporary accommodation for three days.

“After 72 hours, the human settlements department will advise on where they will be taken,” Gwamanda said in a statement.

Ramaphosa said people who needed assistance, from accommodation to counselling, “will be looked after.”

Earlier, the city of Johannesburg confirmed that it owned the building, but said cartels had taken it over.

A spokesman for emergency services, Robert Mulaudzi, told the BBC that firefighters had been able to bring out some of the occupants.

He said the fire had gutted the building, and the search for victims was continuing.

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