At least 73 people were charred to death and another 52 injured when a major fire broke out in a five-storey building in the South African city of Johannesburg, officials said Thursday.
Authorities said it was unclear what sparked the blaze at the building located in the city centre.
City of Johannesburg emergency services spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said firefighters were alerted to the fire in a building on the corner of Delvers and Alberts streets at about 1:30 am.
“We managed to evacuate the people who were inside the building as soon as we arrived while we were conducting firefighting operations,” Mulaudzi said.
The fire gutted the building on the corner of Albert and Delvers Streets.
“…still continuing with search and recovery operations,” Mulaudzi posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
A video posted by Mulaudzi on X showed fire trucks and ambulances outside the building with burnt-out windows.
A toddler was among the deceased.
Of the injured, some suffered smoke inhalation with others sustaining minor injuries.
Mulaudzi said the fire had been contained and that they were busy with “damping down” as well as search and recovery operations.
He said the death toll might increase because there was an informal settlement inside the building which may have resulted in people being trapped while trying to flee.
“Every floor has an informal settlement, and those that were trying to evacuate were trapped because of the structures between the floors,” he added.
“We have informed people who are at the scene looking for their relatives that chances of finding them alive are very slim,” the official further said.
Officials from the City of Johannesburg disaster management have been activated to start facilitating relief for affected families.
The blaze was the deadliest in South Africa in recent years and one of the worst worldwide.
In December last year, a fuel tanker blast near Johannesburg killed 34 people, while in June, flames ripped through a dilapidated building in the city and killed two children under 10 who were locked in an apartment.