Johannesburg fire: 64 dead in blaze at city centre building

Source: BBC

At least 64 people have died after a fire broke out in a building in Johannesburg, South African authorities say.

More than 40 others are injured.

Johannesburg officials say it is unclear what sparked the blaze at the five-storey building in the city centre.

A spokesman for the 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 that the search for other victims was continuing.

“We are moving floor by floor conducting these body recoveries,” Mr Mulaudzi told local broadcaster ENCA.

A video posted to the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, by Mr Mulaudzi showed fire trucks and ambulances outside the building with burnt out windows.

Photos from the scene showed covered bodies lined up near the burned building.

The building is located in what was formerly a business district in South Africa’s economic hub. It was being used as an informal settlement, Mr Mulaudzi said.

The inner city neighbourhood is infamous for ‘hijacked’ buildings, a term used in South Africa to refer to buildings illegally taken over by undocumented migrants, mostly from other African countries.

Mr Malaudzi told the BBC that the building had been abandoned previously, but homeless people had moved in looking for shelter during the current cold winter months.

He added that since it was not a formal accommodation with a lease, the building was not properly looked after and makeshift structures and debris had made it hard to search for and rescue people.

In the wake of the fire, many South Africans on social media have condemned the online xenophobic attacks that some have made against the victims and survivors of the fire.

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