Johannesburg, South Africa, is reeling in the aftermath of a devastating and rare fire that claimed the lives of at least 74 people and left 52 injured. The inferno erupted in the early hours of August 31st within a dilapidated, illegally occupied building in the city center. As the nation mourns, the authorities are now faced with the arduous tasks of tending to the victims’ families, caring for survivors, and pressing forward with their inquiry.
Starting this Friday, relatives of the missing are urged to visit one of the country’s morgues in Soweto to identify their loved ones. Rescuers have recovered the bodies of 40 men and 24 women, but the gender of 10 individuals remains undetermined. Among the victims are at least 12 children, including a baby.
Local authorities initially cited candle lighting as a possible cause, given the building’s electricity had been cut off that evening. However, other avenues of investigation are being explored. The regional government leader has announced the establishment of an investigative commission to complement the efforts of the police. This commission will delve into the broader issue of illegally occupied buildings in the city center, which are estimated to number in the hundreds.
“We are all to blame”, remarked President Cyril Ramaphosa during his visit to the site. Local authorities have begun to scrutinize organizations opposing evictions, attributing blame to them. “This should never have happened, and it must serve as a lesson to us all”, added the head of state.
As South Africa grapples with this heart-wrenching tragedy, the nation’s collective sorrow and determination to prevent such disasters in the future are palpable. The investigation into the fire’s cause and the broader issue of illegal occupations will shed light on critical matters that demand urgent attention.