May 21, 2024

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South Africa: George Building Collapse – Death Toll Reaches 32, While 20 Still Unaccounted

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Rescue and recovery efforts are ongoing into the second week after the collapse of the George building, with the death toll standing at 32, as at 9am on Tuesday.

According to the latest statistics released by George Municipality, out of the estimated 81 workers who were on site at the time of the incident on 6 May, 61 have been rescued and/or recovered, while 20 are still unaccounted for.

“The primary focus continues to be on rescue efforts. With this in mind, we are also proactively setting up plans to expedite the identification of the deceased,” the statement read.

This is being done by the Forensic Pathology Service (FPS) and the South African Police Service (SAPS).

“We, therefore, endeavour to fast-track the process to help bring closure to families. Fingerprints, DNA testing and photographs of unique markings, such as tattoos and clothing items, are some of the methods used to identify the deceased.”

READ | Public Works Minister to visit George building disaster site

Meanwhile, six of the deceased have already been positively identified.

Since the first call for support, the municipality confirmed that adequate numbers of fluent practitioners in Chewa, Portuguese and Shona languages are all at the scene to address the emotional, social, and overall mental health needs of those affected by the building collapse.

However, the municipality said it was having trouble obtaining accurate names of missing people or the deceased.

“We urgently request families who have lost contact with their loved ones to come to the George Civic Centre on York Street. This will enable the Department of Social Development to collect detailed and precise information, ensuring that all records are accurately documented.”

Investigations

The Western Cape MEC for Infrastructure, Tertuis Simmers, visited the site in George and expressed his sincere gratitude to the rescue workers, who have been on site for over 187 hours, as well as the support personnel and the Joint Operations Centre for their dedicated work since the tragedy occurred.

Simmers confirmed that the Western Cape Government (WCG) has launched an independent investigation into the collapse.

“We want to make sure that we fully investigate and understand what happened so that a tragedy like this does not occur on any construction site in this province.

“I received a briefing this morning from our independent investigator and at this stage, the team is still busy with information and fact-finding processes. This includes document analysis of plans, site records and the like,” he said on Monday.

The MEC stated that specialist equipment, including ground penetration radar (GPR) is also used on-site, while investigators are also collecting material samples.

In addition, an independently appointed laboratory is working around the clock to analyse the material samples.

“Not only did the WCG appoint an independent investigation, but we also supplied trucks and machinery and even hired an excavator to assist with bulk movement of material. We will continue to provide support until all workers are accounted for and we get to the bottom of this tragedy,” said Simmers.

Meanwhile, the MEC said the WCG is working with the SAPS, the Department of Employment and Labour, National Department of Public Works and Infrastructure in their investigations.

“On behalf of the WCG, I offer our sincere condolences to the bereaved families, and I wish those currently hospitalised a speedy recovery,” the MEC added.

By SAnews.gov.za.

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