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7 hours later - Joburg building deadly fire rages on

One fireman tripped on the 23rd floor of the health and human settlement's building and plunged to death, while two of his colleagues later died from smoke inhalation.

A fire at the Gauteng Health Department building in the Johannesburg CBD on 5 September 2018. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - More than seven hours after it broke out, firefighters are still working to extinguish a blaze in the Johannesburg CBD that’s claimed the lives of three of their own.

One fireman tripped on the 23rd floor of the Health and Human Settlement's building and plunged to death, while two of his colleagues later died from smoke inhalation.

Roads remain closed as smoke is still coming out from the top floors of the building. More than a dozen firefighters are still inside fighting the blaze and have recovered the bodies of their colleagues.

Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has released a statement, saying he's saddened by the events of Wednesday and will be visiting the families of the deceased on Thursday to offer his support.

Meanwhile, workers have been told that no one will be occupying this building until further notice.

SAFETY STANDARDS

Officials have confirmed the building failed to meet health and safety standards.

MEC for Infrastructure Development Jacob Mamabolo says an inspection of the building last month showed that only 21% of safety regulations were met.

Mamabolo further conceded that other buildings in the area need to be reinforced to meet minimum requirements.

INVESTIGATION

The Department of Infrastructure Development is investigating the cause of the deadly fire.

Mamabolo says four floors needed to be evacuated by the Labour Department last month due to poor building conditions.

The first, second, fifth and sixth floors were evacuated, and employees were moved to separate offices.

The Health Department says it did not receive a condemnation notice to leave the building.

CONDOLENCES

The Gauteng government has sent its condolences to the families of the three firefighters and says officials will be offering them support.

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, the government cites a report released just last month which found the building was only 21% compliant against the 85% norm.

Staff who had been evacuated are now receiving counselling.

Mamabolo says: “With respect to officials, it’s only 13 that have been admitted but the rest of them, we have received reports that the building was evacuated, and they were released to go home.”

The building has been shut down to allow for further investigation while the cause of the fire remains unknown.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)