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Firefighters work at the scene of a fire in Johannesburg. Image Credit: AFP

The death toll from a fire that engulfed a five-storey building in central Johannesburg on Thursday has risen to 73, the South African city's emergency services said.

"We are now on 73 fatalities and 52 people injured who were transported to various healthcare facilities," said Emergency Management Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi.

It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze, which broke out overnight, Emergency Management Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said.

Firefighters who were called to the scene had put out the flames.

The building had been evacuated and search and recovery operations were ongoing.

Television footage showed fire trucks and ambulances outside the red and white building with burned-out windows, which had been cordoned off by police.