Families continue their vigil outside gutted five-storey building

Family members of the people who were inside a building that caught fire in central Johannesburg on Thursday are still camping outside of the flat hoping to find closure.

On Monday, Sunday World visited the five-storey building on the corner of Alberts and Delvers streets and found the devastated family of 25-year-old Esnart Lux from Malawi still in shock of what had happened.

According to John Kachepa, who spoke on behalf of the family, Lux is the youngest in the family and lived in the destroyed building.

“At the moment, we do not know whether she is dead of alive,” said Kachepa.

“We have visited the hospitals and mortuaries that the authorities used when they were moving people, however, we could not find her.

“We hope that we find her alive but if she isn’t, that is still okay. Our main focus as the family is finding her in order to bury her in a dignified manner, if she is no longer alive.” 

He said at the hospitals that they visited, the family was tested for DNA and told that an investigation would be conducted.

Kachepa said the family has not left the scene since the day of the blaze, because it has high hopes that Lux will come back looking for them.

“A friend who lived with her made it out alive and said she doesn’t know where she ended up,” said Kachepa.

“We cannot blame anyone for what happened, unless there is someone who comes and say they were responsible for what happened.”

Samson Jackson, a husband to one of the victims of the fire, told Sunday World that he just wants to collect his belongings from the building. 

“I want to get my things from my room so that I can leave.” he said.

“They [authorities] said they would let us in on Monday. Our floor [first floor] was not badly affected by the fire, hence I believe that I can get some of my belongings inside.” 

The wife, who made it out of the building alive, is receiving medical care in a hospital. 

“My wife is getting better, they said they will be discharging her today. I am grateful that both my wife and three-year-old son are still alive,” he said. 

Jackson complained about the state of the shelter where he is being accommodated.

“I will not be going to stay in the shelter that the government has provided. I will go and stay with one of my relatives until I get back on my feet.” 

The early-morning blaze on Thursday claimed more than 70 lives. Many other people were admitted to the hospitals across the city.

It has been reported that the building, once a shelter for homeless and abused women and children, had been hijacked by people who turned it into a drug den.

During his visit to the building late on Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the illegal occupation of the dilapidated building was a disaster waiting to happen.

“There needs to be law and order in the inner city,” Ramaphosa told the media.

“We’ve got to address this problem and root out those criminal elements, because it is these types of buildings that are taken over by criminals.

“They then levy rent on vulnerable people and families.”


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