Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Deaths in Joburg building blaze. Twelve people have died after a fire broke out in a central Johannesburg building early on Wednesday. Officials said the deaths were caused by asphyxia, and that 33 were injured. Exit routes were blocked by belongings that people had tried to remove. The building was an abandoned factory, now occupied illegally. Rapid urbanisation and housing shortages have led to the squatting of many Johannesburg buildings, often in dangerous conditions. "We had to remove 12 bodies. They died from traumatic asphyxia," emergency services spokesman Malcolm Midgley said. People were sleeping on at least three storeys of the building when the fire broke out around 0100 local time (2300 Tuesday GMT).

Mr Midgley said of the men who died appeared to have been pushed against a locked security gate in the rush to get out. "One of the bodies had the imprint of a security gate on his skin. For those imprints to have remained on him for several hours, you can imagine the pressure with which he was squeezed against it," he said. The injured were taken to hospital, some of them severely hurt. It is not known how many people were inside the building at the time of the blaze. The nationalities of the victims are also unknown, though reports say Malawian passports were found on the scene after residents had left the building.


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