Disasters & Accidents

Dozens killed after fire at migrant building in South Africa

(Update: upgrades death toll, adds info)

Johannesburg, South Africa, Aug 31 (EFE).- A fire at a five-story building in Johannesburg has killed at least 73 people, officials said Thursday.

A spokesperson for the city’s Emergency Management Services, Robert Mulaudzi, warned that the death toll was expected to rise.

“Latest update is 73 fatalities and 52 injured still continuing with search and recovery operation,” Mulaudzi said on X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter).

In remarks to local media, Mulaudzi said firefighters had managed to evacuate the building, adding that preliminary investigations into the causes of the blaze would begin once it has been fully extinguished.

The official explained that the building had been turned into “an informal settlement” being used mostly by African migrants.

“The fire spread very quickly affecting different levels of the building because of the combustible materials used,” he said.

Mulaudzi told local media that firefighters were alerted to the fire at the building around 1:30 am.

Among the victims is an infant girl believed to be between one and two years old, he added.

A Johannesburg public safety official had earlier said that a locked security gate had prevented people from escaping the fire and had led to a deadly crush.

“A gate was closed, so people couldn’t get out. When firefighters came in they saw people who were smashed against a security gate,” Dr Mgcini Tshwaku said, according to The Citizen.

According to Mulaudzi, the fire has been contained but “extinguishing operations” continue on Albert Street in central Johannesburg, where the property is located.

Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda, who went to the scene of the incident, confirmed in statements reported by local media that the building is owned by the city, was leased to an NGO and is called Usindiso Homeless Shelter.

This is the third building fire in Johannesburg in recent months, according to local media reports. EFE


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