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By Kyle Zeeman

Deputy Digital Editor

Ramaphosa ‘being updated’ on Joburg CBD disaster, offers condolences

She said Ramaphosa would soon visit the area and address the catastrophe

Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said President Cyril Ramaphosa is being kept updated on the aftermath of blaze in the Johannesburg CBD that left more than 73 dead and dozens injured.

A one-year-old and six other children were among those who died when a fire broke out at a five-storey building in the Joburg CBD on Thursday morning.

Speaking at the scene of the tragedy, Ntshavheni said the president was receiving updates on the disaster.

ALSO READ: Panicking Joburg CBD fire victims were ‘squashed against closed gate’

She told Newzroom Afrika Ramaphosa would soon visit the area.

“The president is currently in Gqeberha. When this incident was recorded, he was already there. He is going to come and make the necessary pronouncements but we will receive reports from the city and the province.”

Speaking at the Women in Law Enforcement Parade in the Eastern Cape, Ramaphosa offered his condolences to the victims of the tragedy.

“My thoughts are also with those who have lost their accommodation in this terrible incident. It is a great tragedy felt by families whose loved ones perished in this terrible tragedy. Our hearts go out to every person affected.”

He called for a united response to help those affected and hoped investigations would prevent a repeat of the catastrophe.

Informal settlement inside a building

Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi likened the building to an informal settlement and said partitions in the building made rescue efforts more difficult.

“[There are] informal areas where there are partitions, so the risk of a person being trapped is high. We want to remove any uncertainty by making sure we are clearing the building floor by floor.”

City of Joburg MMC for public safety Dr Mgcini Tshwaku said the devastation was made worse by a locked security gate, which led to dozens being crushed to death.

“A gate was closed, so people couldn’t get out. When firefighters came in they saw people who were being smashed against a security gate.”

‘Hijacked building’

Johannesburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda said at least 300 people, including 140 families, had been displaced by the fire.

He said the building was owned by the city, but was leased to an non-governmental organisation (NGO) and later “hijacked”.

ALSO READ: Seven children among at least 73 killed in Joburg CBD fire

“It was not sold, it was leased to an NGO to in fact run their [organisation] to house women to be given relief of some sort and that’s when things escalated out of control because remember when the city leases a building, whoever is taking responsibility needs to make sure that the building is well kept and that they can return it to the city in the condition which they found it in.

“But I cannot be able to project and predict how a business would then find itself in a situation where it is abandoning its operations for one reason or the other,” he told reporters.

Additional reporting by Faizel Patel and Molefe Seeletsa

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Fire Johannesburg CBD (Joburg)

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