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Sniffer dogs search for bodies at scene of tragic Johannesburg blaze

Survivors and onlookers gather at the scene of Johannesburg fire   -  
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Jerome Delay/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

South Africa

Most of the emergency services teams have left the scene of one of South Africa’s deadliest fires that ripped through a Johannesburg building on Thursday.

On Friday, it was the turn of police sniffer dogs to search through the gutted remains of the derelict premises to see if they could find any more bodies.

The blaze at the condemned five-storey block claimed 74 lives, most of them burnt beyond recognition. Investigators said they will have to rely on DNA samples to identify the victims.

City authorities said an estimated 200 people were living in the abandoned building which had been turned into illegal housing.

While household fires are common in Johannesburg, this is especially true in poor areas where people often use candles for lighting and dangerous paraffin stoves for cooking.

But Thursday’s blaze has highlighted the country’s inner-city housing crisis.

Behind the police tape, some survivors wait, bearing the scars of their ordeal such as head injuries and broken bones.

Others, together with relatives of victims, have begun the grim task of identifying their loved ones at a nearby mortuary.

The cause of the fire remains unknown, but forensic investigators were also at the site on Friday, picking through the charred remains of the building.

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