Building fire leaves at least 74 people dead

A devastating fire tore through a five-story building in central Johannesburg, South Africa. The fire took place early Thursday and resulted in the tragic loss of numerous lives. This blaze erupted in the downtown area of South Africa’s largest city at approximately 1:30 a.m. local time. Emergency services swiftly responded to the scene, working tirelessly to evacuate residents and extinguish the flames. By Thursday afternoon, the death toll had risen to at least 74, including 12 children, with another 61 individuals injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown and is currently under investigation.

Johannesburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda confirmed the grim news of the fatalities, expressing deep condolences to the affected families. The City of Johannesburg Emergency Management Services reported that 17 of the injured individuals remain hospitalized. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the tragedy, emphasizing the need for a thorough investigation into the incident. He also highlighted the importance of addressing criminal elements that exploit vulnerable individuals seeking accommodation in the city.

Throughout the day, firefighters meticulously combed through the building, searching each floor for any remaining victims. The death toll steadily climbed, leaving officials and rescue workers devastated.

Reports indicate that the victims were predominantly migrants from various African countries, residing in what authorities referred to as an informal settlement within the building. Local media revealed that the property had been abandoned and subsequently invaded by occupants. The building, previously leased to the provincial Department of Social Development as a shelter for women affected by domestic violence, faced challenges upon the conclusion of the lease, leading to the occupation.

Authorities are now focused on coordinating emergency accommodation for those who survived the fire, ensuring they are not left homeless.