A house fire that engulfed a five-story building, has killed more than 70 people, including children, in central Johannesburg on Thursday.

The South African emergency services disclosed this on Thursday, noting that another 52 were injured in what is on track to become one of the deadliest fires worldwide in recent years.

An official said bodies were discovered piled up at a closed security gate, preventing people from escaping the blaze.

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City authorities said affected buildings in a deprived, crime-ridden area had been turned into illegal housing after being abandoned.

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Accordingly, it stated that most of those living there were foreigners, one resident said.