Fire-ravaged building a grim reminder of squalor desperate residents lived in

05 July 2017 - 19:16 By Kgaugelo Masweneng And Naledi Shange
The Cape York building after the fire.
The Cape York building after the fire.
Image: City of Joburg EMS‏ via Twitter

A foul smell of what seemed like urine and used cooking oil lingered in the air outside the Cape York building in the Johannesburg CBD‚ with heaps of trash and streams of dirty water painting a grim picture of the squalor that the desperate occupants lived in.

On Wednesday‚ seven people living in the dilapidated building with broken windows and cardboard used as makeshift windows lost their lives when a fire broke out.

The deadly blaze started at around 8.30am with some saying it was sparked by a generator which had caught alight.

In the reported 11 minutes that it took firefighters to arrive at the scene‚ building occupants‚ desperate to escape the inferno and choking smoke fumes‚ used blankets and sheets to make their way out‚ tying them to the window frames.

With no running water‚ it was difficult for residents to put out the fire which consumed several floors of the abandoned building.

When TimesLIVE arrived at the scene‚ the remains of Mozambican national Mikita Tokene‚ who had jumped from the third floor‚ lay sprawled on the ground‚ covered in foil with his worn out sneakers poking out from beneath the covering.

His neighbour from Mozambique was among the crowd that gathered near the scene. According to him‚ Tokene was a nyaope addict.

“I met him in the streets of Joburg‚ looking dirty and addicted to Nyaope which is what he was not back at home. His friend who lives here called me this morning and told me that he had died after he attempted to jump from the third floor‚” said Deto Mabali.

He would deliver the news of Tokene’s demise to his family back in Mozambique.

Others remembered Tokene as a funny and humble person who enjoyed fixing cars.

It was easy for them to speak about Tokene as his body was lying outside the building but little else was known about the other six casualties.

The six had died from smoke inhalation or were burnt by the flames‚ said EMS spokesperson Nana Radebe.

Over 50 occupants had been rescued and lowered out of the high rise building using ladders. Seven were hospitalised‚ said the City of Johannesburg.

By midday‚ the fire had completely been extinguished‚ with rescue officials combing through the building in search of anyone who may have been trapped inside.

It did not take long for metal scrap collectors to make their way into the building and exit with pieces of metal‚ carrying them on their shoulders.

In a bid to protect the little that they had‚ some people refused to leave the building and could be seen peering from the broken and dirty windows.

The stranded building occupants‚ who stood behind the police tape cordoning off the scene‚ were however adamant that they would reoccupy the building they call home.

- TimesLIVE

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