This fire was bound to happen - Herman Mashaba

Cape Town - With around 85 buildings hijacked by illegal occupants in Johannesburg, a disaster was inevitable, city Mayor Herman Mashaba said on Wednesday.

"For anyone who was with me a few weeks ago, this fire was bound to happen," he said, wearing a yellow hard hat in front of the Cape York building in the central business district.

A fire at the hijacked building forced a man to jump to his death, while six others died of smoke inhalation.

Seven others were rushed to hospital, some with burn wounds to their hands and feet.

More than 50 people were rescued from the building using a crane with a ladder. Residents tied sheets together and threw them out the window in a desperate attempt to escape.

"What is disturbing is this fire in this particular building is not going to be an isolated case unless civil society can allow me as executive mayor to condemn these buildings and get people out so that we can actually save their lives," said Mashaba.

AS IT HAPPENED: Joburg building declared a crime scene after deadly blaze kills 7

Court battle

Gauteng police spokesperson Kay Makhubele said the bodies of some victims were burnt beyond recognition.

An inquest docket would be opened to determine the cause of the fire.

MMC for public safety Michael Sun said they were negotiating with the private building owner to take charge.

It was understood that there was an ongoing court battle.

Sun said these buildings were extremely dangerous because people were using illegal electrical connections.

"Yet we find women, the sick and elderly occupying the buildings."

He said public safety and disaster management officials would provide the victims with food, clothing, blankets and emergency shelter.

Mashaba, however, took a slightly different tone, saying the occupants could not expect to jump any housing lists.

They were not going to allow anyone to hijack buildings thinking that they can jump the queue.

"If you are looking for a house and believe you qualify, please register on the list."

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