Dozens dead, many wounded in Johannesburg building fire

The death toll from a five-story residential building fire in South Africa’s Johannesburg city on Thursday has risen to 73, emergency officials confirmed.

“I saw people screaming and jumping out of the building with some of their belongings. It was very horrifying,” an eyewitness who was on the street at the time of the fire, told Anadolu.

Johannesburg Emergency Management Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi told reporters that they were alerted about the fire at around 1:30 a.m. local time (2330GMT Wednesday).

“At this time, we don’t know what caused the fire. Since it is an abandoned building, it could be an illegal electricity connection or a heating device,” he said at the scene where emergency services personnel were pulling out charged bodies.

Colleen Makhubela, the speaker of the Johannesburg city council, told reporters that they are saddened by what has occurred, but people should not live in illegal structures because they are unsafe.

She said whenever they planned to evict people from unsafe buildings, they were met with opposition from different civil society groups.

According to media reports, the building was abandoned and people were living there illegally. It is believed that more than 100 people were inside the building at the time of the fire. So far, more than 50 people have been evacuated and treated for various injuries.

There are several abandoned dilapidated buildings in the Johannesburg city center that are illegally occupied.​​​​​​​

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