Tragedy has unfolded in Johannesburg, South Africa, after more than 70 people passed away from a fire that swept through a five-story building.
At Least A Dozen Children Perished In The South Africa-Based Tragedy
According to The New York Times, the blaze broke out during the early hours of Thursday, Aug. 31. The building was illegally occupied by numerous squatters, and it was reportedly dilapidated and rife with hazards.
Once authorities extinguished the flames, they combed through the wreckage for remains. Officials have reportedly recovered 74 bodies so far, and at least twelve children perished in the fire.
According to AP News, Kabelo Gwamanda, the mayor of Johannesburg, reportedly explained that 141 families have been affected by the tragedy.
Reportedly, Johannesburg city councilman Mgcini Tshwaku says it appears as though the fire started on the ground floor. He adds that a security gate trapped many of the occupants. This resulted in people throwing themselves out of upper-floor windows to escape.
The New York Times also points out that journalists visited the structure back in May while reporting on a larger story regarding the status of Johannesburg, and it was allegedly overflowing with garbage at the time.
More than 70 people were killed overnight when fire raged through a Johannesburg apartment block — one of the worst such disasters in a city where poverty, household fires and homelessness are widespread. pic.twitter.com/gPRGzpe7sB
— DW News (@dwnews) August 31, 2023
Johannesburg Officials Hadn’t Conducted A Safety Inspection On The Building Since 2019
In response to the tragedy, AP News reports that Johannesburg Emergency Services Management spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi declared, “Over 20 years in the service, I’ve never come across something like this.”
Although authorities haven’t determined the cause of the conflagration, Tshwaku suggested it likely started from a candle, per AP News.
The New York Times notes that another official, Rapulane Monageng, admitted that the city — the largest in South Africa — hadn’t conducted a safety inspection on the building since 2019. He added that inspectors “wouldn’t want to go into a hostile environment.”
Within a statement, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared, “This is a great tragedy felt by families whose loved ones perished in this awful manner, and our hearts go out to every person affected by this event.”
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