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Still unclear what caused Joburg CBD building fire

Johannesburg Emergency Services say the preliminary investigation could not be concluded due to the extent of the damage.

Firefighters arrive at the scene of a burning building in Johannesburg. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Residents and shop owners who were evacuated when a building in the Joburg CBD caught fire on Thursday will never know what sparked the flames.

Johannesburg Emergency Services say the preliminary investigation could not be concluded due to the extent of the damage.

Residents who live in the upper part of the premises questioned the timing of the blaze which broke out just two hours after the City and police raided their homes.

Emergency services' Nana Radebe says only the first two floors of the 10 story building were damaged.

“The building when we left it yesterday it was safe, we had checked the building and everyone was moving back in. Where the fire occurred is part of a church, the residential starts from the second floor going up.”

OWNER OF HIJACKED BUILDING TO BE TRACKED DOWN

The City of Joburg is still trying to trace the owner of the hijacked building that caught fire.

Families including babies were trapped on the rooftop until firefighters brought them down to safety on Thursday.

The City’s Lucky Sindane says the owner of the building first needs to be tracked down before it can further investigate the activities which allegedly took place on the premises or lay criminal charges.

“There should be a complaint [and] they should trace the owner to verify if they own the property.”

Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) is currently representing residents of 11 buildings in the inner city who are challenging the lawfulness of over 20 police raids carried out by Mayor Herman Mashaba and the police between June last year and May this year.

SERI's Khululiwe Bengu says these raids trample on human dignity.

“It’s just direct infringement of people’s constitutional rights to just come and search your house without a warrant.”

Shop owners who have lost everything in Thursday’s inner city fire are still counting the cost of the damage.

WATCH: Joburg shop owners left in despair after fire

(Edited by Thapelo Lekabe)

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