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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.

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