Johannesburg building fire kills 74 residents in South Africa
The Johannesburg building, which predominantly houses migrants, has prompted officials to call for action on unorganized housing plans in South Africa.
A fire in a residential building in Johannesburg, South Africa, killed at least 74 people on Thursday, as residents were seen jumping from the housing complex to save themselves.
Authorities announced that the fire had been extinguished after emergency workers combed the building floor-by-floor.
Another 50 people were treated after suffering varying injuries while a dozen children met their fates, the Gauteng health department announced.
Residents struggled to escape the raging blaze, as the only door leading in and out of the building was locked, leaving them with no other alternative to exit the inferno.
The five-story building in Albert Street housed around 400 people, many of whom were migrants from Malawi, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
Omar Arafat, from Malawi, one of the residents, said he was woken up at about 1 AM (local time) by loud bangs and screams of "fire, fire" The Guardian reported. Seeing that he had no pathway to escape, Omar broke off one of the building's windows and jumped from the third floor saving himself from impending danger.
As a result, the resident says he was knocked out for three hours as he regained consciousness surrounded by firetrucks and ambulances.
Others who attempted to escape in a similar manner were less fortunate, as a Tanzanian immigrant, Musa, died after breaking his back following his attempted escape.
Officials call for housing reforms
"This is a tragedy of immeasurable proportions," said the leader of the Build One South Africa party, Mmusi Maimane. The political leader voiced his criticism of the living conditions in such buildings, saying the building should not have been inhabited in the first place.
Dumisani Baleni, a provincial spokesperson for the Economic Freedom Fighters party, said the municipality, which owns the building, has tried to "resolve the question" of such "illegally occupied structures." However, its attempts have been hindered by legal challenges.
"When you try to do this you get interdicted by certain organizations that seek to interfere," he said, referring to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) -- such as the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa and the Inner City Federation -- which oppose evictions of residents in the absence of alternative housing.
"It's a wake-up call for us to begin to address the situation of housing in the inner city," South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, said at the site of the Johannesburg fire.
"We need to get on top of this and find effective ways of dealing with problems of accommodation, of housing, and services in the inner city," Ramaphosa added.
Gauteng Human Settlements councilor, Lebogang Maile, said displaced residents will be accommodated as a result of the fire.