A Blaze in Johannesburg Claims At Least 64 Lives, Predominantly Among the Homeless, Say Officials

by Gabriel Martinez
Johannesburg building fire

A minimum of 64 individuals perished in a devastating fire that occurred late at night in a dilapidated five-story building in Johannesburg, inhabited primarily by the homeless, as confirmed by emergency services on Thursday.

In a desperate attempt to flee the fire, some residents of the building in South Africa’s largest city leapt from windows, potentially resulting in additional fatalities, according to a local government representative. Seven of the deceased were children, with the youngest being just one year old, stated a spokesperson for emergency services.

Robert Mulaudzi, the spokesman for Johannesburg Emergency Services Management, revealed that another 43 individuals sustained injuries during the fire. The inferno ignited around 1 a.m. in the core of Johannesburg’s central business district.

The area is known for its derelict and vacated structures, which are frequently occupied by individuals in urgent need of shelter. These buildings are often referred to as “hijacked buildings” by city officials.

Mulaudzi warned that the casualty figures are expected to rise as more bodies are likely entrapped within the building. It took firefighters three hours to get the fire under control, and by mid-morning, they had only managed to penetrate three of the building’s five levels.

“In my over two decades of service, I have never encountered an incident of this magnitude,” commented Mulaudzi.

He described the interior of the building as essentially an “informal settlement,” where makeshift shacks and other dwellings had been constructed and people were densely packed into rooms. Numerous obstacles throughout the building made it extremely challenging for residents to evacuate and equally difficult for emergency personnel to navigate the site.

According to Mulaudzi, search teams recovered 64 bodies, and the probability of finding any survivors this long after the fire had initiated was deemed “extremely low.”

Eyewitness accounts suggest that as many as 200 people may have been residing in the building. An unnamed witness, who resided in a neighboring building, informed television news channel eNCA that he heard cries for assistance and exclamations of “We’re dying in here” as the fire erupted.

Mgcini Tshwaku, an official with the local government, mentioned that there are indications that fires might have been lit within the building as a means to counter the winter chill. Investigations are underway to determine the exact cause of the catastrophic event.

Subsequent to the fire’s containment, plumes of smoke were observed emanating from the windows of the charred structure as daylight emerged. Tattered sheets and miscellaneous material were seen hanging from some of the shattered windows, although it remains uncertain whether these were used in escape attempts or were belongings residents tried to preserve.

Source: AP Africa News: https://bigbignews.net/africa

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Johannesburg building fire

What is the main event discussed in the text?

The main event discussed in the text is a devastating fire that broke out in a dilapidated five-story building in Johannesburg. The building was primarily inhabited by homeless individuals.

How many people died in the fire?

At least 64 people died in the fire. This number is expected to rise as emergency services continue their operations.

Were there any children among the victims?

Yes, seven of the victims were children, with the youngest being only one year old.

What time did the fire break out?

The fire broke out around 1 a.m. in Johannesburg’s central business district.

How many people were injured in the fire?

Another 43 individuals sustained injuries during the fire, according to Johannesburg Emergency Services Management spokesman Robert Mulaudzi.

How long did it take to contain the fire?

It took firefighters approximately three hours to get the fire under control.

How many floors had been searched by mid-morning?

By mid-morning, firefighters had only worked their way through three of the building’s five floors.

Were there any obstacles that hindered the emergency response?

Yes, the building’s interior was described as an “informal settlement” with makeshift shacks and other structures that made it extremely difficult for residents to evacuate and for emergency crews to navigate.

What is being done to determine the cause of the fire?

Mgcini Tshwaku, a local government official, stated that investigations are underway to determine the exact cause of the fire. There are indications that fires might have been lit inside the building to counter the winter chill.

How many people were believed to be living in the building?

Eyewitness accounts suggest that as many as 200 people may have been residing in the building at the time of the fire.

What term do city authorities use for such rundown buildings?

City authorities often refer to these types of rundown and abandoned buildings as “hijacked buildings.”

Were there any eyewitness accounts?

Yes, an unnamed witness from a neighboring building informed a television news channel that he heard cries for assistance and exclamations like “We’re dying in here” as the fire erupted.

More about Johannesburg building fire

  • Johannesburg Emergency Services Management
  • Johannesburg’s Central Business District
  • Dilapidated and Abandoned Buildings in Johannesburg
  • Eyewitness Testimonies on eNCA
  • Local Government Response to Building Fires
  • Fire Safety Measures in Informal Settlements
  • Statistics on Homelessness in Johannesburg
  • Official Investigations into the Cause of the Fire

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Alan Stevens August 31, 2023 - 11:31 am

200 people living in a rundown building? That’s a disaster waiting to happen. This needs serious attention from the gov.

Tara D August 31, 2023 - 12:43 pm

Everyone’s talking about the tragedy but what’s being done to prevent it from happening again? any word on that?

Rick B August 31, 2023 - 3:57 pm

Three hours to contain a fire? That’s way too long. They should look into improving response time, especially in a busy area like this.

Mike Jansen August 31, 2023 - 6:02 pm

Can’t believe this happened in the heart of Johannesburg. Makes ya wonder about the state of emergency services. they need to step up their game.

Sandra L. August 31, 2023 - 10:55 pm

This is tragic. My prayers are for the families. How did a building like that even get to such a state?

Jen S. August 31, 2023 - 11:27 pm

Officials should be held accountable for allowing buildings like these to exist in the first place. It’s unacceptable.

Kathy M. September 1, 2023 - 1:23 am

So heartbreaking, especially about the little kids. why aren’t there more shelters available for the homeless?

Paul Thompson September 1, 2023 - 5:12 am

Is it just me or do city officials need to take a hard look at these ‘hijacked buildings’? They are ticking time bombs. Something needs to be done ASAP.


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