Marshalltown building was a ticking time bomb

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The first witness in the tragic Marshalltown Fire Inquiry, that gutted the Usindiso building leaving 77 people dead, says the building was a ticking time bomb.

Acting Johannesburg Emergency Services Chief Rapulane Monageng is giving oral testimony on the first day of the independent commission chaired by retired Constitutional Court Judge Sisi Khampepe.

He provided a 77- page document containing hundreds of pictures which detail the fire hazards identified by emergency services.

Monageng told the commission that the gutted Usindiso building had poor fire prevention measures. He described the conditions inside the buildings as a maze of living spaces constructed of highly flammable material such as wooden boards, plywood, chipboard and plastics.

“That emergency route commissioner was blocked off with boxes, it was blocked off with plywood. But this door when its locked, you can’t even access the stairwells on the other side.”

The commission is expected to call three witnesses at this stage of oral evidence. It’s been given six months to uncover the possible causes of the fatal blaze as well as make recommendations on who should be held accountable.

Monageng further gave evidence on the emergency services response on the 31 of August when the fire broke out in the early hours of the morning.

SABC News reporter Mbalenhle Mthethwa was at the public hearings: