How many people died in the Johannesburg fire?

JOHANNESBURG — Search teams finished checking a derelict Johannesburg apartment building a day after one of South Africa’s deadliest fires broke out there as pathologists faced the grisly task Friday of identifying charred bodies and body parts that were transported in large trucks to mortuaries across the city.

The death toll rose from Thursday’s predawn blaze rose to 76 after two people died in a hospital overnight, Health Minister Joe Phaahla told reporters. At least 12 of the victims were children, authorities said.But now it has increase to 88

Homeless South Africans, poor foreign migrants and others who found themselves marginalized in a city often referred to as Africa’s richest but which has deep social problems inhabited the downtown building.

The number of injured people hospitalized from the fire also increased to 88, according to a provincial health official.

After conducting three searches through each of the building’s five stories, emergency services personnel believed that all human remains were recovered from the site, Johannesburg Emergency Services spokesperson Nana Radebe said.

Police and forensic investigators took over the scene for their own examinations, Radebe said.

The remains of some of the victims were taken to a mortuary in the township of Soweto, in the southwestern outskirts of South Africa’s economic hub, where people began to gather as authorities called for family members to help identify the dead.

Motalatale Modiba, a Gauteng province health department spokesperson, said 62 of the bodies were so badly burned as to make them unidentifiable and the city’s pathology department faced using painstaking DNA analysis to officially identify the majority of victims.

“Even if the family were to come, there is no way of them being able to identify that body,” Modiba said.

Thembalethu Mpahlaza, the CEO of Gauteng’s Forensic Pathology Services, said at a Thursday evening news conference that numerous unidentified body parts were found in the remnants of the building and his investigators needed to establish if they were from people already counted as dead or came from additional fire victims.

Many of the dead were believed to be foreign nationals and possibly in South Africa illegally, making it more difficult to identify them, city officials said.

Local media reports, quoting residents of the building, said at least 20 of the dead were from the southern African nation of Malawi. At least five were Tanzanian nationals, the Tanzanian High Commission in South Africa said.

The fire ravaged a city-owned building that had effectively been abandoned by authorities and had become home to poor people desperately seeking some form of accommodation in the rundown Johannesburg central business district. The building was believed to be home to around 200 families.

Senior city officials conceded they had been aware of problems at the building since at least 2019.

Many witnesses said in the immediate aftermath of the fire that they were separated from family members in the chaos of escaping the inferno. Some said there were children walking around alone outside the building, with no idea if their parents or siblings had survived.

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