In a heart-wrenching incident, a fire engulfed a five-story building in central Johannesburg, which had been repurposed for illegal housing.
The outcome was nothing short of a catastrophe, with a staggering loss of 74 lives, including 12 innocent children.
Additionally, 61 individuals sustained injuries in what stands as one of the deadliest fires in recent memory globally.
The devastating aftermath of the fire revealed a heartbreaking event. The victims were located piled up near a security gate that had been cruelly locked, preventing escape.
Notable among those who perished were 24 females, 40 males, and 10 individuals whose identities had been concealed by the intensity of the fire.
Authorities shed light on the building’s grim history, once municipally owned but abandoned, eventually transformed into a makeshift residence by desperate individuals in an economically disadvantaged, high-crime area.
Tragically, the majority of those residing there were foreign nationals, facing abysmal living conditions.
Kenny Bupe, a survivor who was caught up in the fire while visiting a friend, recounted the harrowing experience.
He described a frantic race for the fire exit and how some resorted to jumping out of windows to escape the inferno’s wrath.
In a display of desperate measures, parents were witnessed throwing their babies from windows in the hope of saving them.
The exact cause of the fire remains uncertain.
Given South Africa’s struggle with chronic power outages and widespread poverty and homelessness, it is suggested that candles or heating devices used for lighting and warmth within the structure may have been contributing factors.
This building, once the centerpiece of South Africa’s economic hub, had sadly become an informal settlement for those illegally squatting inside its walls.
The tragedy was made worse by a locked security gate that stopped many people from getting out. This led to the horrifying finding of burned bodies.
Firefighters worked tirelessly to suppress the flames, paramedics tended to survivors, and the streets outside bore the sorrowful sight of lifeless bodies covered with blankets.
It was evident that many of the victims were foreigners, struggling to make ends meet.
Illegal occupancy of abandoned buildings is a grave issue in Johannesburg, often under the control of criminal syndicates.
In 2019, law enforcement drew attention to this particular building when 140 foreign nationals were apprehended for illegal rent collection.
This calamity serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by vulnerable communities in South Africa’s inner cities, urging a collective effort to address housing issues and ensure the safety of all residents.
Condolences and support have poured in from around the world, highlighting the magnitude of this tragic event.
As investigations into the fire’s cause continue, the nation mourns the lives lost and contemplates the urgent need for action.
The death toll has risen to 73, It is alleged that the majority of residents who occupied the building are from Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.#jhbfire #JoburgFire #JoburgCBD #Johannesburgbuildingfire #JohannesburdCBD #JHBCBD pic.twitter.com/xl3B8MsLTA
— CrimeInSA (@sa_crime) August 31, 2023