George honours multi-national victims of building disaster 

By Esther de Villiers

The George Municipality called on “all residents of George and South Africa” to participate in a moment of silence to honour the victims who passed away when the building under construction at 75 Victoria Street collapsed on 6 May. 

Driving down York Street at 2.09pm on Monday, it was clear that many locals received news of this appeal and stood where they were with heads bowed in sympathy for the departed and their loved ones. 

Earlier in the day, the grim realities of identifying the dead and the process required to release bodies to families were shared with the media by SAPS spokesperson Sergeant Chris Spies. 

“If the bodies are identifiable through birthmarks or tattoos, it makes our task much easier. But right now bodies being recovered are in a state of decomposition, and the identification process becomes complicated,” said Spies. 

He explained that albums of photos are compiled of each victim to help families recognise their lost kin. 

Physical traits such as fingerprints and DNA are recorded when photo identification is not possible or successful. 

“If they don’t have immediate family in George, it makes it much harder to compare DNA samples. But we have a multi-disciplinary team working to identify all victims.”

Spies said in cases where family members are not present or reachable, the relevant consulates have been instrumental in tracking down relatives of the deceased.   

“We understand that people want closure and answers, and once we have all the paperwork done we can deliver bodies back to the families for burial,” said Spies. 

At 9pm on Monday, confirmed stats were:

* Total estimated individuals on-site when the incident occurred: 81

* Rescued and recovered: 61 (of which 32 are deceased)

* Currently hospitalised: 12

* Unaccounted for: 20 

The George Municipality repeated its urgent call for professional psychosocial support practitioners proficient in the Chewa, Portuguese and Shona languages to assist survivors and their families from outside of SA. 

Pictured above: SAPS spokesman Sergeant Chris Spies addresses the media.

Source: Esther de Villiers

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