Johannesburg - It was tears and sorrow at one of the busiest markets in the inner city of Joburg on Wednesday following a fire inside the Kaserne parking garage near Kwa Mai-Mai.
An infant and eight adults burnt to death when the fire engulfed an abandoned building filled with shacks.
It is not known what caused the fire but by the time help arrived, nine people were dead.
Twenty others suffered burns while others had broken bones after jumping from the building.
Joburg mayor Geoff Makhubo, who visited the scene, said a forensic investigation would try to discover what might have happened.
“Our officials are on the ground and they said 200 or more people were affected. There is an emergency temporary shelter that is being organised by the housing department.”
Makhubo said that whoever was affected would be accommodated temporarily by the city.
“It’s a sad situation because the shacks have grown with the advent of illegal immigration. We can’t just move people, but there have been negotiations with provinces over vacant land that is around here.”
Makhubo said the city’s Department of Human Settlements was hard at work along with the province to ensure they come up with a plan to address illegal occupation
Nana Radebe of Joburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) said the call came through at around 4am on Wednesday.
She said when emergency services arrived at the scene, a double-storey building was on fire.
Radebe said there were about a 100 shacks inside the building.
The fire apparently started on the bottom storey.
“In order for those on the top floor to get to safety, they needed to get out of the building using the stairs. However, that’s where the fire was, and many were trapped.
“The fire was too strong and that is why others jumped out of the building and were injured.”
Seven of the nine people were burnt beyond recognition.
She said an infant, whose age had not been determined due to the state of the injuries caused by the fire, died with his or her mother in the fire.
Acting chief of EMS Rapulana Monageng said it was still early to tell what started the fire.
“Housekeeping is still an issue at this stage and there are a lot of possibilities. Someone might have not properly put out a cigarette. The building was also hijacked so there were no proper evacuation points in place which is a disadvantage.”
Monageng said the intensity of the fire was so great that residents who were trapped on different floors struggled to find an alternative to escape.
He said one death is too many and the city would continue rolling out its safety management programmes.
“Our residents need to apply extra caution. What has happened is devastating, but working together with residents such incidents could be avoided.”