You turn to us for voices you won't hear anywhere else.

Sign up for Democracy Now!'s Daily Digest to get our latest headlines and stories delivered to your inbox every day.

Johannesburg Building Fire Kills at Least 73 People, Including Children

HeadlineAug 31, 2023

In South Africa, at least 73 people died as a massive fire tore through a five-story building in downtown Johannesburg that housed squatters living in cramped, makeshift conditions. Many of them were believed to be migrants. Officials say at least seven children are among the dead. Harrowing scenes showed scores of lifeless bodies lined up on the street as rescue teams continued to search for people. Witnesses and survivors described the chaos as people tried to flee the burning building.

Kenny Bupe: “The actual fire escape was closed, so the people — there was a lot of people, you know, a lot of people, smoke. People suffocated. A lot of people died because of the smoke, because there was a lot of pressure at the gate. Some of the gates were closed.”

The building was once an apartheid government checkpoint for Black workers. The scarcity of affordable housing in Johannesburg has driven people to take shelter in unsafe and overcrowded abandoned buildings, which often lack sewage, electricity and other basic amenities.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation