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Johannesburg fire: Hijacks and death traps in a crumbling South African city centre

Johannesburg's Central Business District is filled with buildings that look on the brink of collapse. Windows are boarded up and walls are covered in graffiti.

Streets are filled with detritus - food wrappers, empty beer bottles, cigarette butts - and a foul smell of rotten food combined with urine fills the air.

It is overcrowded, dangerous, and there are few working amenities.

And it is now the backdrop to one of South Africa's worst building disasters, when 76 people died and dozens more were injured in a fire that ripped through 80 Albert Street on Thursday.

The dilapidated complex was one of dozens that have been "hijacked" - taken over by criminals and property gangs who then rent out the space illegally to people who cannot afford anything else. There are often no reliable amenities, nor sanitation.

Molly, a 21-year-old South African who lives down the road from 80 Albert Street in another "hijacked" building, says it is like living in a prison.


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