Several organizations expressed their condolences after a fire on Thursday morning at a building in Johannesburg’s city center claimed the lives of at least 73 people. A further at least 52 people were injured.
John Steenhuisen, leader of the Democratic Alliance, says it is a catastrophe for the country which has “caused unknowable pain and suffering to innocent people”.
“We hope that the emergency services in Johannesburg will act quickly to prevent further loss of life and bring comfort to those affected by the tragedy.”
The DA’s representatives in Johannesburg will do everything in their power to assist the persons involved. “We will continue to fight for safer living conditions and proper housing for city center residents.”
Alan Winde, Premier of the Western Cape, also expressed his deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims.
“I think of the family members who lost their loved ones and of the persons who were injured in the terrible tragedy.”
He offered assistance to the Johannesburg City Council, emergency services and provincial government.
“Our provincial disaster management team is ready and willing to help where they can.”
The car sales industry union Misa also expressed its condolences to all the families who lost loved ones in the tragedy. “We are thinking of the victims and everyone who provides support at the building or our hospitals,” said Martlé Keyter, executive chief operating officer of Misa.
The investigation into the cause of the fire continues. According to authorities, candles, stoves or other heating devices may have been the cause of the fire.
A resident told AFP that most of the residents were foreigners.
At least seven children died, the youngest of whom was under two years old, said Robert Mulaudzi, spokesperson for the Johannesburg emergency service. Some charred beyond recognition.
“I am grateful to be alive,” said Kenny Bupe, who was trapped in the fire when he was visiting a friend. “Many of us ran. We looked for the fire exit and many people ended up dying from smoke inhalation.”
The 28-year-old Bupe told AFP that he was part of a group that was able to unlock a closed fire gate and run to safety. Others “jumped out of windows” to save themselves.
Blankets and sheets used to escape the building still hang from the burned out windows.
“It is a great tragedy,” Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa said during a meeting in Gqeberha. “We think of everyone affected by this disaster.”
The building, which was evacuated, was used as an informal settlement, Mulaudzi said. Residents are therefore presumed to have lived there illegally.
In the building was a security gate that was locked, so people could not get out of the building. Many charred bodies were found at this gate, AFP reported.