Johannesburg Fire Kills at Least 73 Homeless People

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Johannesburg Fire
IMG CR. getty Images

A nighttime fire ripped through a rundown five-story building in Johannesburg that was occupied by homeless people and squatters, killing at least 73 people early Thursday, emergency services in South Africa’s biggest city said.

The blaze broke out at around 1:30 a.m. local time (2330 GMT) in the building, which is located in the central business district of Johannesburg. The cause of the fire is not yet known, but officials said it is likely that it was started by a candle or other open flame.

The building was reportedly overcrowded and lacked proper fire safety measures. Many of the victims were trapped inside and burned to death. Others died from smoke inhalation.

Emergency services were able to rescue 43 people from the building, but the death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are recovered.

The fire is one of the deadliest in Johannesburg in recent years. It comes amid a growing housing crisis in South Africa, where millions of people live in informal settlements or squatter camps.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and has ordered an investigation into the fire.

“This is a tragedy of immense proportions,” Ramaphosa said in a statement. “My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have lost their lives.”

The fire has also sparked calls for better fire safety measures in informal settlements and squatter camps.

“This is a wake-up call,” said Sipho Maseko, head of the South African National Fire Protection Association. “We need to do more to prevent these tragedies from happening.”

The fire is a reminder of the harsh reality faced by many homeless people in South Africa. It is also a reminder of the need for better fire safety measures in informal settlements and squatter camps.

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