At least 12 of those killed were children, the youngest a 1-year-old, according to city and medical officials.
On Friday rescue workers resumed the grim task of searching for victims of a fire in Johannesburg that killed at least 74 people. The fire, in a building occupied by many homeless people, started at 1 am on Thursday.
Some people threw babies out of third-story windows to others waiting below in the desperate scramble to evacuate, witnesses said.
At least 12 of those killed were children, the youngest a 1-year-old, according to city and medical officials. They said at a news conference that an undetermined number of people were still missing and many bodies recovered were burned beyond recognition.
Death toll may rise
More than 50 people were injured, six of whom were in a serious condition in the hospital. Emergency services officials had earlier warned that the death toll could rise as they continued to search the scene more than 12 hours after the blaze broke out at around 1 a.m.
Dozens of bodies recovered by firefighters were laid out on a side road outside the apartment block, some in body bags, others covered in silver sheets or blankets after the body bags ran out. They were eventually taken away in pathology department vehicles.
"Over 20 years in the service, I've never come across something like this," Johannesburg Emergency Services Management spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said.
Authorities said the fire had been largely extinguished, but smoke still seeped out of windows of the blackened building downtown. Strings of sheets and other materials also hung out of some windows. It was not clear if people had used those to try and escape the fire or if they were trying to save their possessions.
Authorities hadn't established the cause of the fire but Mgcini Tshwaku, a local government official, said initial evidence suggested it started with a candle. Inhabitants used candles and fires for light and to keep warm in the winter cold, he said.
Central business district
Firefighters were still making their way through the remnants of shacks and other informal structures that littered the inside of the derelict five-story building in the heart of Johannesburg's central business district hours after the fire was extinguished.
In a statement, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said, "this is a great tragedy felt by families whose loved ones perished in this awful manner, and our hearts go out to every person affected by this event."
A spokesperson for Ramaphosa said he had offered the assistance of the national disaster management agency if needed, and the president later visited the scene having cancelled a Thursday evening television address on the BRICS economic summit held in Johannesburg last week.
Ramaphosa called the fire devastating and a "wake-up call" for South Africa's economic hub to address its inner-city housing crisis.