Johannesburg Building Fire Photos: Scenes From a Deadly Blaze

A fire consumed a crowded five-story building in downtown Johannesburg early on Thursday, tearing through an informal settlement of homeless people in what was being described as one of the deadliest blazes in South African history.

Owned by the city, the building once provided emergency housing for women but had become home to a large squatter camp, a sign of the scarcity of affordable housing in South Africa’s most populous city.

These are photographs from the fire and its aftermath.

Bystanders near the scene of the fire.

Forensic team members removing bodies from the scene, where the authorities were still working to determine the cause.

This was among the deadliest residential fires in recent years. Residents have described the terror of waking up overnight to the spreading flames.

Firefighters battling to extinguish the blaze.

A blanket hanging out of a window that was used to climb out of the building.

Women mourning near the building. Some fleeing the fire have said the abandoned site was the only place they could afford to live in the city.

The police cordoned off the area as bystanders gathered down the street from the apartment complex, waiting for news on those still missing.

Residents with some of their belongings bundled up near the scene of the fire.

By midmorning, the fire had been extinguished and firefighters were combing the structure floor by floor, searching for bodies.

The building was one of several places that New York Times journalists visited in May for a report on the chaotic housing situation of South Africa’s most populous city. Neighbors said conditions there were cramped and squalid.

The settlement, pictured here in May, had become a visible symbol of the city’s struggle to address a housing crisis.


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