Government officials assisting Johannesburg fire victims: Lesufi

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Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi says provincial government officials are on the ground to provide the necessary support to those affected by this morning’s fire in the Johannesburg CBD. At least 73 people died and over 50 were injured after a fire broke out at an illegally occupied building in Marshalltown.

“MEC [Lebogang] Maile has already visited the scene to assist the situation. MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko has visited the injured in the hospital and MEC Mbali Hlophe has now heading into the community centre where the survivors will be placed to ensure that aid is provided in a form blankets and warm meals,” says the Premier’s spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

Humanitarian aid organisation, Gift of the Givers says it is on standby to assist the survivors of the building fire.

“Our team is on standby. We’re going to assist them with everything, blankets, clothes, hygiene packs. We’re waiting on disaster management because, remember, we need to know where these people are going and how many are they. Our team is on standby,” says Gift of the Givers’ Clifford Mabe.

Hijacking of buildings

Johannesburg’s Transport MMC Kenny Kunene says the hijacking of buildings in the city center has been a serious problem for years. He says such buildings are unsafe for human habitation with clusters of illegal electricity connections.

“It is a problem when you have to evict people. The law of this country must be amended, the property law protects criminals that is why hijacking of buildings in this country is so rife, because in Turffontein, in Randburg, in Rosettenville, you go on holiday for a week, when you come back people are staying in your house.”

Aftermath of the fire:

Removing bodies from building

Meanwhile, Johannesburg Forensic Pathology Services have begun removing bodies from the scene. The exact cause of the blaze is still being investigated.

It is understood locked gates may have led to the high fatality rate, as people could not escape when the blaze broke out.

Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko says the bodies will be taken to the Diepkloof Mortuary as well the Hillbrow Mortuary, where DNA testing will be done to determine their identities.

At this stage, firefighters are damping down the building as search and rescue operations continue. The death toll is likely to be much higher as emergency services expect to recover more bodies as operations progress.

Latest update on the fire: