South Africa riots: Mother throws baby from burning building after looters ransack shops
A desperate mother was forced to throw her baby from a burning building in the South African city of Durban after looters set fire to shops on the ground floor.
The woman was seen dropping the child down to a crowd of bystanders with their arms outstretched as smoke billowed around her.
The baby escaped unhurt and was later reunited with its mother, the BBC reported.
It comes as looters ransacked shops and offices in the country on Wednesday, defying government calls to end a week of violence that has killed more than 70 people and wrecked hundreds of businesses.
The unrest, the worst in South Africa for years, also disrupted hospitals struggling to cope with a third wave of Covid-19 and forced the closure of a refinery.
Protests triggered by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry last week have widened into looting and an outpouring of general anger over the hardship and inequality that persist 27 years after the end of apartheid.
Shopping malls and warehouses have been ransacked or set ablaze in several cities, mostly in Zuma’s home in KwaZulu-Natal province, and the financial and economic center Johannesburg and surrounding Gauteng province.
Overnight it spread to two other provinces – Mpumalanga, just east of Gauteng, and Northern Cape, police said.
A Reuters photographer saw several shops being looted in the town of Hammersdale, Kwazulu-Natal, on Wednesday. Local TV stations meanwhile showed more looting of shops in South Africa’s largest township Soweto, and in the Indian Ocean port city of Durban.
The National Hospital Network (NHN), representing 241 public hospitals already under strain from Africa’s worst Covid-19 epidemic, said it was running out of oxygen and drugs, most of which are imported through Durban, as well as food.
“The impact of the looting and destruction is having dire consequences on hospitals,” the NHN said. “And the epicentre of the pandemic is within the affected provinces currently under siege.”
Staff in affected areas were unable to get to work, it said, worsening shortages caused by a third wave of infections.
As authorities in Durban seemed powerless to stop looting, vigilantes armed with guns, many of them from South Africa’s white minority, blocked off streets to prevent further looting, Reuters TV footage showed. One man shouted “go home and protect your homes”.
Other residents gathered outside supermarkets waiting for them to open so they could stock up on essentials.
The poverty and inequality fuelling the unrest has been compounded by severe social and economic restrictions aimed at curbing Covid-19. The United Nations in South Africa expressed concern that disruptions to transport for workers from the riots would exacerbate joblessness, poverty and inequality.