12 killed in S Africa building fire

Updated on Mar 29, 2006 03:21 PM IST

Twelve people died after a fire broke out in an illegally occupied building in downtown Johannesburg.

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None | ByReuters, Johannesburg

Twelve people died after a fire broke out in an illegally occupied building in downtown Johannesburg on Wednesday, local media said.

"The cause of death of all 12 appears to be traumatic asphyxia -- they suffocated because they couldn't get out," spokesman Malcolm Midgley was quoted as saying by Sapa news agency.

Independent Radio 702 reported that a further 33 people were injured in the fire, which broke out around 1 am.

Midgley said residents were unable to flee the blaze after blocking an escape route with possessions they had tried to salvage. The cause of the fire was unknown.

The incident highlights a housing crisis in the inner city of South Africa's financial capital, which is riddled with disused or crumbling buildings where desperate homeless people often seek shelter.

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