/ 31 August 2023

At least 64 dead as fire guts Joburg building

Marshalltown 2
Photo supplied

More than 60 people died in a fire that engulfed a five-storey building in Marshalltown, Johannesburg, on Thursday, the city’s emergency services said.

Dozens of others were injured, some suffering from smoke inhalation, and were taken for treatment at local hospitals, Emergency Management Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said.

“We’re on 52 bodies, which we have recovered and also 43 people who sustained minor injuries,” Mulaudzi told local broadcaster ENCA earlier on Thursday. 

By 8.52am, however, that number had increased to 64 fatalities, according to social media posts made by the City of Johannesburg and confirmed by Mulaudzi.

Firefighters who were called to the scene extinguished the flames and search and recovery operations were ongoing.

“We are moving floor by floor conducting these body recoveries,” Mulaudzi said, adding the death toll was expected to rise. 

It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze, which broke out overnight. 

The building, which has been evacuated, is located in a deprived area of what used to be the business district of South Africa’s economic hub, and was used as an informal settlement, Mulaudzi said.  

Television footage showed fire trucks and ambulances outside the red and white building with burned-out windows, which had been cordoned off by police.

Johannesburg mayor, Kabelo Gwamanda, is expected to attend the scene later this morning.

This is a developing story.

© Agence France-Presse