Government employee who was 'in the room' where fatal fire started to be interviewed: Makhura

05 September 2018 - 20:55 By Nico Gous
The building that houses the Gauteng Department of Health in Johannesburg CBD is on flames as the paramedics and fire fighters try to extinguish fire 05 September 2018
The building that houses the Gauteng Department of Health in Johannesburg CBD is on flames as the paramedics and fire fighters try to extinguish fire 05 September 2018
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

A government employee who was “in the room” where a fatal fire broke out in downtown Johannesburg on Wednesday will be interviewed‚ Gauteng Premier David Makhura said.

While the cause of the fire at the Bank of Lisbon building in the Johannesburg CBD is unknown‚ Makhuru said on Wednesday that the unnamed staff member could hold the answers.

Three firefighters died in the fire‚ one of them after apparently falling from the 23rd floor. The building houses the Departments of Health‚ Human Settlements‚ and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

“Fortunately‚ there is a staff member that was in the room where the fire started. The police are going to interview that staff member that was there. They will know exactly what caused the fire‚" Makhura said.

Earlier‚ Makhura’s administration confirmed that the building did not comply with occupation‚ health and safety standards‚ scoring just over 20%. A report on the Bank of Lisbon building - and as well as other government buildings - was presented to the provincial government just last week.

Makhura said the provincial government assessed and decommissioned buildings annually. Eight buildings in total were deemed unsafe.

“When the report says to us that this building cannot even be renovated‚ it’s structurally unsound‚ it needs to be brought down‚ we get the relevant department new accommodation and leave that building completely‚” he said.

Makhura said some departments were in the process of moving.

“The plan was to move all of them and that gets done in phases.”

The provincial government will now find temporary offices for all staff in the eight unsafe buildings‚ with Makhura saying the process of finding new buildings would be fast-tracked.

They aim to have new offices for the three departments housed in the Bank of Lisbon building by Monday.

Johannesburg public safety MMC Michael Sun said on Wednesday the fire had been put out‚ but the area remained cordoned off.

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