A fierce fire swept through a dilapidated five-story building in Johannesburg, leaving a grim toll of at least 73 people dead. The ill-fated building, housed homeless individuals and squatters. It became a scene of utter tragedy when the fire broke out in the early hours of Thursday. Desperate to escape the flames, some occupants resorted to leaping from windows. A desperate measure that may have claimed lives, according to a local government official. Heartbreakingly, seven of the victims were children, with the youngest being just one year old, according to an emergency services spokesperson.
Witnesses on the scene estimated that as many as 200 people might have been residing in the building, further compounding the tragedy
Emergency response teams continue their efforts to recover victims from the site. The process has been slow due to challenging conditions within the building. Numerous bodies, some within body bags and others covered with silver sheets and blankets, were lined up on a nearby road
In addition to the fatalities, 52 people sustained injuries in the Johannesburg fire blaze incident . That ignited around 1 a.m. in the heart of Johannesburg’s central business district, according to Robert Mulaudzi, a spokesperson for Johannesburg Emergency Services Management.
The area is known for its abandoned and dilapidated buildings. Often taken over by individuals desperately seeking shelter. City authorities commonly refer to such structures as “hijacked buildings.”
Escaping the Blaze:
Mulaudzi explained that the interior of the building resembled an informal settlement. Characterized by shacks and makeshift structures where people were living in cramped conditions. Numerous obstacles within the building made both escape during the fire and subsequent rescue efforts extremely challenging.
Search teams discovered 73 bodies, and the likelihood of finding survivors hours after the fire began was described as “very slim” by Mulaudzi. Authorities are investigating the cause of the blaze. There are indications that some occupants may have ignited fires inside the building to keep warm during the winter cold.
City officials have reported that 141 families were affected by the tragic incident. An immediate count of the number of individuals inside the building at the time of the fire was not available. It is believed that many were foreign nationals.
A witness living in a nearby building, who chose to remain anonymous, recounted hearing pleas for help from those trapped inside the building, including cries of “We’re dying in here” as the fire erupted.
Even after the fire was extinguished, smoke continued to emanate from the building’s blackened windows as daylight broke. Evidence of items, such as strings of sheets, hanging out of some broken windows. This has raised questions about whether individuals had used them to escape or save their possessions.
The incident stands as a tragic reminder of the vulnerability faced by homeless populations in precarious living conditions. Particularly during extreme weather conditions.