Why Joburg is burning
The tragic Bank of Lisbon blaze shows up serious safety gaps and fire-engine shortages as well as deep political fault lines
On Wednesday last week a perfect storm was brewing as firefighters from the Johannesburg Emergency Services went up to the 23rd floor of the Bank of Lisbon to battle a blaze that had erupted in the downtown building. It was a day on which there were three other fires being fought in Johannesburg, according to the city’s public safety MMC, Michael Sun. While the inferno blazed the firefighters went up to do what they were trained for, ready with a hose reel to battle the fire that had started on a floor where documents were stored and was full of paper that fuelled the flames. But when the fire hose was opened, no water came out. Three firefighters died in the unfolding drama: Simphiwe Moropane, 28; Khathutshelo Muedi, 37; and Mduduzi Ndlovu, 40. One of the firefighters fell to his death from the 23rd floor. The others died after being trapped inside the building. The fire raged on for more than 48 hours. For Sun, everything that could go wrong did go wrong that day. It emerged that ...