The tragic fire that occurred at the Usindiso Building, located at 80 Alberts Street in Marshalltown, Johannesburg, has resulted in a devastating death toll of 74 people. Among the victims are seven children and 67 adults.
The City Manager of Johannesburg, Floyd Brink, has announced that survivors of this horrific incident will find temporary accommodation at the Hofland Recreation Centre in Bez Valley, Ekhaya Shelter in Hillbrow, and Impilo Shelter in Fairview, Jeppestown. These locations will serve as safe havens for those displaced by the fire while rescue operations and investigations at the building are ongoing.
Brink explained that the Department of Human Settlements will provide further guidance on the long-term accommodation arrangements after 72 hours once all logistical and verification processes have been completed. It is estimated that over 200 families were residing in the building at the time of the fire.
The fire was reported at 01:19, and first responders arrived at the scene just ten minutes later, at 01:29. A total of 43 firefighters and 14 officers were deployed to combat the blaze in the five-story building.
In addition to the firefighters, the Gauteng Provincial Health Emergency Management Services also responded to the scene to assess, stabilise, treat, and transport the injured. As of August 31 at 14:00, 61 individuals had received medical treatment at various facilities in the city. Sixteen of them had been discharged, while 17 remained admitted, with the rest continuing to receive care in the casualty units.
Brink emphasised that all available resources are being mobilised to provide affected families and individuals with the necessary social and psychological support. The City of Johannesburg’s Disaster Management and Social Development departments have deployed 16 social workers to conduct assessments and offer trauma counselling and psychosocial support.
Furthermore, Brink clarified that the Usindiso Building is owned by the City of Johannesburg and had previously been leased to the provincial social development department, which served as a shelter for abused women. However, complications arose at the end of the lease agreement, leading to confrontations with the occupants. Subsequently, the building was invaded and hijacked.
In October 2019, the City of Johannesburg, through its Group Forensics and Investigation Services, raided the building. During this operation, approximately 140 foreign nationals were apprehended by the Department of Home Affairs, and one suspect was arrested and charged with illegally collecting rent from tenants in the building.
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Photo: Supplied by the Sandton Chronicle