Johannesburg authorities blamed for fire which caused 76 deaths

A damning report released following an inquiry into a tragic building fire that claimed 76 lives last year has squarely pointed fingers at city authorities, alleging gross negligence and a casual attitude toward building safety.

The devastating blaze, which engulfed a five-story apartment block in downtown Johannesburg on August 31, has been labelled one of South Africa’s worst disasters.

Retired Judge Sisi Khampepe, heading the investigative panel, criticised the City of Johannesburg for its “total disregard” of the building’s “calamitous state.”

Judge Khampepe’s findings revealed that city officials were well aware of serious safety deficiencies in the building at least four years before the tragic incident.

The inquiry unearthed difficult details about the building’s squalid conditions.

Hundreds of people were found to be living illegally within the premises, some even constructing makeshift shacks within corridors and bathrooms. Shockingly, the basement, originally designed for parking, had been transformed into makeshift dwellings.

Fire extinguishers had been removed, and crucial escape routes were obstructed or locked on the night of the fire.

According to the report, the interior of the building was strewn with waste, exacerbating the lethality of the blaze, particularly when combined with the presence of makeshift wooden structures.

This disastrous event has spotlighted the urgent need for systemic reforms to ensure the safety and well-being of Johannesburg’s residents, urging authorities to take strong action to prevent similar tragedies.

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