Zimbabweans feared dead as 73 die in Joburg fire

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The building that caught fire in the Johannesburg city centre on Thursday had been turned into an informal settlement with at least 80 shacks inside.

“The fire spread quickly, affecting different levels of the building because of the combustible materials used,” said Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi.

The number of fatalities is increasing as search and recovery operations continue at the five-storey building. 

“Firefighters have recovered 64 bodies and the number may rise as search and recovery continues,” he said.

Seven children are among the dead, the youngest a one-year-old baby.

It is believed all survivors have been evacuated from the building.

Mulaudzi said 43 people were treated for injuries on the scene and transported to healthcare facilities for further care. The number of injured was later updated to 52.

“Firefighter crews are damping down. EMS will conduct preliminary investigations to determine what caused the fire after firefighting operations are done.

“The City of Johannesburg disaster management is on the scene to facilitate relief for affected families. Chaplains are attending to the bereaved families to offer counselling.”