#JoburgFire: Neighbouring buildings asked to evaluate

Buildings surrounding the Bank of Lisbon building have been asked to evacuate, MEC for infrastructure development and provincial head of disaster management, Jacob Mamabolo told the media on Thursday.

“The fire is still on and we have asked for reinforcements from the City of Ekurhuleni and Tshwane,” said Mamabolo.

“We have asked surrounding buildings to be evacuated as a precautionary measure.”

On Wednesday afternoon, a fire started on the 23rd floor of the building which houses three government departments: health, human settlements and co-operative governance

Three firefighters were killed fighting the flames – one fell to his death, while two others died after reportedly running out of oxygen – while evacuating 1 115 staff members.

Mamabolo said that investigations are under way to determine the cause of the blaze and the death of the three firefighters.

“The tragic loss of life of the firefighters is a matter that we believe there should be a separate investigation on that issue so families can find closure,” said Mamabolo.

READ MORE: #JoburgFire: ‘This is what we warned would happen’ – unions

“We also believe there should be a separate investigation on the real cause of the fire,” he added. “If anyone is found to have acted outside requirements of policy we will take prompt action without fear or favour.”

Thirteen employees were sent to Milpark hospital on Wednesday night to be treated for smoke inhalation.

According to Mamabolo, only five people have not been released from Milpark hospital: four firefighters and one employee, but said they were not in critical condition.

He added that all employees were evacuated safely yesterday.

Building safety, 21% compliance

Mamabolo said that employees from the Lisbon building were in the process of being moved to alternate work spaces. He also revealed that the department of infrastructure development had received a report on August 27 which they had requested last year to evaluate the state of eight government-owned buildings. According to the Mamabolo the report stated that the Lisbon building was only 21% compliant with health and safety standards.

READ MORE: #JoburgFire: Workers say building was a ‘house of horrors’

The department had reportedly begun the relocation process in March and efforts to seek alternative accommodation were commenced from July 22.

“The process of moving officials from this building had already begun; Cogta and Human Settlements were the departments who were in the levels that department of Labour had found issue with. We had begun process of finding an alternative building.”

In an earlier press briefing on Thursday morning, Mamabolo said that safety compliance did not necessarily play a role in Wednesday’s fire, EWN reported. Arson was not ruled out as a possibility.

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