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Death toll rises to three as experts assess cause of Anderlecht fire

19:03 22/04/2021

Two more bodies have been found in the wreckage following a fire in Anderlecht early on Monday morning that destroyed a multi-story residence. This brings the death toll to three.

There are still up to 13 people in hospital following the blaze in the Heyvaert quarter, near the Abattoir. Four of them are in critical condition.

Firefighters were called to the blaze in Rue Heyvaert in the middle of the night. The fire was out of control when the firefighters arrived, and they were not able to save any of the interior of the building.

A resident of the building pronounced dead on Monday has been identified as 25-year-old Mamadou Diallo. Originally from Guinea, he had lived in Brussels since he was a teenager, was a passionate footballer and had many friends.

Diallo was known in Brussels’ Guinean community as le flamand because he spent a lot of time in Flanders and spoke Dutch well. “He was the only Guinea I knew who was bilingual,” his cousin Doumans Diallo told Bruzz. “He helped us all out.”

Friends mourn death of loved ones
Friends and neighbours took to Rue Heyvaert earlier this week to mourn the death of three residents of the home destroyed by fire  ©VRT

The young man had a job as a technician. “He was really happy with his work because he could be independent,” said Doumans. “His life was really becoming stable. We come from a family that is not well off, and it’s not easy to find work. So  many people don’t.”

The two bodies found later still have to be officially identified, but authorities believe them to be a man and his 14-year-old daughter, who have been reported missing. It’s unclear how many people lived in the building, but some of them are apparently not registered as residents of Belgium.

City councillor Gilles Verstraeten (N-VA) lashed out at slumlords, who rent to too many people and do not take property fire safety precautions. Anderlecht’s mayor, Fabrice Cumps (PS), said it was more to do with the state of the housing in the area in general rather than slumlords specifically.

“We cannot rule out that there were too many people living in the building because we do not have a clear idea right now of the available square metres,” he told Bruzz. “It’s not about slumlords but it may be about housing in general. There are many overpopulated flats in this neighbourhood, and the housing might not conform to all regulations. The experts must, in any case, still establish the cause of the fire.”

The building did not have fire doors, and the smoke detectors were not connected to each other. But neither of those measures are required in rental properties in Brussels. The building housed a business on the ground floor – a supplier of paper and plastic packaging, which fed the fire for hours. An extension on the back of the building was also destroyed in the blaze.

Photo top ©Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw