‘A great tragedy has befallen our country’: Ramaphosa on deadly Joburg fire

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the Johannesburg fire that took the lives of at least 70 people on Thursday as a “tragic disaster”.

Speaking during the unveiling of the expansion of the SAPS forensic science biology laboratory and women in law enforcement parade in Gqeberha on Thursday, Ramaphosa said the country woke up to the “disaster that has befallen our country where a number of people in Johannesburg were engulfed in a blaze and a fire that has resulted in the deaths of more than 60 people and [left] many more injured.

“I would like to offer my deep condolences to the families of those who have passed away and those who are injured and wish a speedy recovery for those who are injured.” 

He was referring to the fire that broke out in a building in Johannesburg’s city centre, causing multiple fatalities and injuries. The death toll stands at 73.

Sending his thoughts and prayers to the households and individuals that lost their accommodation and possessions in the “terrible incident”, Ramaphosa said: “This is a great tragedy felt by families whose loved ones perished in this terrible manner and our hearts go out to every person who is affected by this disaster.

“This incident calls on all of us, from the emergency services and other entities of government to reach out to survivors and to help restore people’s physical and psychological well-being and to offer all material help and assistance to the residents affected by this.”

Ramaphosa said he hoped the investigations into the fire would enable communities and authorities to “prevent a repeat of such a tragedy”. 

He said it was unfortunate that the government was wrapping up Women’s Month celebrations on such a sad note. “It is sad that this day ends with such a tragedy.” 

Earlier minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the national government was ready to help Gauteng manage the disaster.

Gauteng human settlement MEC Lebogang Maile confirmed the building is owned by the City of Johannesburg and was leased to an unknown NGO a few years ago.

“Apparently they abandoned it, and I think we will have proper and factual information once the city has done all its work,” he said.

Maile said the government has identified three buildings to house displaced families. “There are about 141 households [that have been affected] and more than 300 people who have survived and who will need accommodation.” 

The government said it will wait for the outcome of the investigation.


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