More than 70 dead in South Africa building fire

More than 70 people have been killed in a pre-dawn fire that ripped through a multi-storey building housing homeless people in South Africa, in what is set to become one of the deadliest fires worldwide in recent years.

Witnesses have spoken of parents throwing their babies out into the street in Johannesburg, trying to save them. Blankets and sheets – used by people desperate to reach safety – still hang from the blackened windows.

Others just jumped, choosing to risk a fall rather than burn in the flames.

Inside, emergency workers found further signs of the horror that confronted residents. Bodies have been discovered piled up at a security gate that had been closed, preventing people from getting out, an official said.

Emergency Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said today that so far, 73 bodies have been pulled from the death trap building, and another 52 people were injured in the blaze. At least seven children were among the dead, Mulaudzi said.

There might have been as many as 200 people living in the building, witnesses say.

The cause of the blaze is being investigated. Authorities said candles used for lighting or stoves and other heating devices were a likely cause.

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