A fire that broke out in a five-storey building in central Johannesburg on Thursday morning has claimed the lives of 74 people, including 12 children, according to local authorities. The blaze also injured 43 people, some of whom are in critical condition.
The building, located at 80 Albert Street, was home to about 400 residents, mostly poor economic migrants and asylum seekers from Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The fire started around 1 a.m. and quickly spread through the building, trapping many people inside.
Some survivors described jumping from windows to escape the flames, while others threw their children to the ground. Firefighters and emergency services worked for hours to put out the fire and rescue the victims. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The incident has raised questions about the safety and living conditions of the informal dwellings that house thousands of vulnerable people in Johannesburg. The building was reportedly “hijacked” by criminal syndicates who charged exorbitant rents and neglected basic maintenance and hygiene.
Local government officials and politicians have expressed their condolences and pledged to provide support and assistance to the affected families. They have also vowed to address the issue of “hijacked” buildings and improve the housing situation in the city.