George building collapse: Municipality calls for national moment of silence, death toll at 26

The building collapsed on Monday, May 6. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

The building collapsed on Monday, May 6. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published May 13, 2024


Rescue operations have entered the eighth day and emergency personnel and other role-players have been on site for over 166 hours as of midday on Monday.

In memory of those who are still trapped and have since lost their lives, the George Municipality has called on residents of the area and the rest of South Africa to observe a minute of silence at 2.09pm.

“In solemn remembrance of the tragic building collapse on Victoria Street one week ago. The community and residents of George and South Africa will observe a minute of silence today at 2.09pm to honour the lives lost and express our collective grief and support for the affected families,” municipality spokesperson, Chantel Edwards said.

So far, 55 workers have been rescued and recovered, 13 workers have been hospitalised, while the death toll has risen to 26 people. A total of 26 workers remain unaccounted for.

Previously, the municipality said it continues to focus on rescue efforts but it has also been proactively setting up plans to expedite the identification of those who have died.

“We are experiencing difficulties in obtaining accurate names of individuals missing or deceased due to the building collapse. 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,” Edwards said.

She said the Joint District Operations Centre's adherence to a stringent double verification protocol is crucial for maintaining the integrity and accuracy of reported numbers of the deceased which is essential in emergency and disaster response scenarios.

This verification process involves cross-referencing information from multiple reliable sources, such as recovery teams, hospitals, and forensic services.

“The Humanitarian Commission is scheduled to meet with on-site teams today to ensure that the disaster response is conducted humanely and coordinated while upholding legal and ethical standards,” Edwards said.

The municipality reiterates it call for urgent professional psychosocial support practitioners proficient in Chewa, Portuguese, and Shona languages to assist survivors and their families. Several practitioners have already offered their services and more are welcome to contact Kholiswa Jobela at 078 210 5972 or Apolus Swart at 061 504 4205.

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