The death toll from a fire that engulfed a five-storey building in central Johannesburg on Thursday, August 31 has risen to 73.
Johannesburg’s emergency services say that another 52 people injured in the fire have been ferried to various hospitals for treatment.
“The latest update is that we have now 73 fatalities and 52 people injured who were transported to various healthcare facilities for further medical care,” said Emergency Management Services spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi.
Deadliest fire in recent years
These shocking numbers mean that the incident is on track to become one of the deadliest fires worldwide in recent years.
An official says that some bodies were discovered piled up at a security gate that was closed, which prevented them from escaping the fire.
The South African city authorities say the building – located in a crime-ridden area – had been turned into illegal housing after it was abandoned.
According to a resident, most of those living there were foreigners.
“I’m grateful to be alive, there was a lot of us running, trying to find the fire exit and a lot of people eventually died because of the smoke inhalation,” said Kenny Bupe, a survivor caught up in the blaze while visiting a friend.
Among those dead is at least seven children – the youngest under two years old.