Witnesses of the fire that tore through a
building in downtown Johannesburg on Wednesday watched in horror as firefighter
fell to his death from the 23rd floor.
“The whole thing unfolded like a movie to
me. I’m still traumatised. As I start speaking about it I cry,” one bystander
told Health-e News.
'He died immediately'
The young woman, who asked not to be named,
was shopping when the fire broke out on one of the upper floors of the building
on the corner of Albertina Sisulu
and Pixley ka Isaka
“I saw everything. I
was standing at the corner of street when I saw a man falling down from the
building that caught fire. He died immediately. I really don’t want to talk
further about this,” she said.
Johannesburg Emergency Services (EMS) spokesperson Nana Radebe, the firefighter
“tripped and fell” on Wednesday morning while attempting to put out the blaze
on the building’s 23rd floor.
Hours later that
afternoon two more firefighters lost their lives, Radebe confirmed.
Nelisiwe Dlomo, a
19-year-old student, was studying in the nearby Johannesburg City Library when
the blaze erupted.
“My father is also a fire fighter.
Fortunately he was not working today. I wonder what could have happened to him,”
she said, watching the fire as it continued to rage throughout the day.
The body of the firefighter who fell was
not removed from the scene for several hours as his colleagues battled against
the flames raging above.
Robert Mulaudzi from Johannesburg EMS said
that removing the body “is not our priority”, and could not comment further on
the issue as it was a “police case”.
The building, which houses the Gauteng
Department of Health, Human Settlements and Cooperative Governance, had
officially been declared unsafe by the National Occupational Safety
Association, according to National
Health Education & Allied Workers Union provincial spokesperson Gracia Rikhotso.
She said the building had met only 21% of the required safety standards, and it was believed that an
electrical fault had caused the fire.
Another bystander, a worker at the
Johannesburg City Library who also asked not be named, told Health-e News that
he was shaken from witnessing the death of the falling firefighter.
“I was looking through the window of the
library. I saw the smoke and all of a sudden I saw a man falling down. He made
a terrible bang noise on the pavement,” he said.
By 5pm on Wednesday the fire had still not
been completely extinguished, and the other two firemen who died had expired
from smoke inhalation before they could be rescued. – Health-e News.
Image credit: Kim Harrisberg (supplied)