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At least 73 dead in Johannesburg building fire, authorities say

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

LONDON and JOHANNESBURG — Dozens of people were killed in a fire that engulfed a five-story building in central Johannesburg early Thursday, authorities said.

The blaze broke out in the downtown area of South Africa’s largest city at around 1:30 a.m. local time. Firefighters were dispatched to the scene and began evacuating people from the building while trying to extinguish the flames, according to Robert Mulaudzi, spokesperson for the City of Johannesburg Emergency Management Services.

“At this stage, the cause of the fire incident is still a subject of investigations,” Mulaudzi said in a statement. “Officials from City of Johannesburg Disaster Management have been activated to start facilitating relief for affected families.”

PHOTO: Firefighters work on the scene of a deadly blaze that claimed the lives of dozens of people in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Aug. 31, 2023.

Firefighters work on the scene of a deadly blaze that claimed the lives of dozens of people in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Aug. 31, 2023.

AP

PHOTO: A firefighter extinguishes a fire at a five-story building in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Aug. 31, 2023.

A firefighter extinguishes a fire at a five-story building in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Aug. 31, 2023.

Michele Spatari/AFP via Getty Images

At least 73 people were confirmed dead, while 52 others were injured. The death toll has continued to rise as firefighters go through the building floor by floor, searching for more victims, according to Xolile Khumalo, another spokesperson for the City of Johannesburg Emergency Management Services.

“It has just been going up,” Khumalo told ABC News. “It’s devastating.”

The victims are reportedly migrants from across the African continent and were living in what authorities reportedly described as an informal settlement inside the building, which had been previously abandoned, according to local media.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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