Johannesburg - Eleven people were taken to hospital on Friday after being rescued from a burning seven-storey building in central Johannesburg, emergency services said.

The group was taken to Hillbrow hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, said spokesman Robert Mulaudzi.

The building, on the corner of Kerk and End streets, started burning around 5pm. The fire was extinguished around 7.30pm.

When emergency services arrived on the scene, they were barred from entering the building by people standing outside.

Only after the arrival of police on the scene were personnel permitted to enter, Mulaudzi said.

There were reports that a group of people had chased criminals into the building and then set it alight. Mulaudzi could not confirm this.

Police were not immediately available for comment.

Sapa