Death toll in George building collapse hits 33, with 19 still missing

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The death toll in the George building collapse has risen to 33, with 19 people still unaccounted for. Six of the deceased have so far been positively identified.

It is estimated that 81 people were on site when the apartment building in construction caved in last Monday. Authorities say the fact that many of the workers were undocumented is complicating the identification process.

Rescue and recovery efforts have entered their second week. Salga Emergency Services and Disaster Management Chairperson Mluleki Nkosi says that while many of the deceased have been found, the identification process is difficult.

“The challenge is some of the people are afraid to give identity because we understand most of the people that were here, the majority were foreign nationals. So, the families are afraid to give identification because some are illegal as we understand. So, this is making the numbers fluctuate. The mayor was explaining to me, and we watched on CCTV camera when the building collapsed some of them ran away from the scene immediately and never came back.”

George Building Collapse | Representatives from Zimbabwe, Malawi High Commissions meet families:

Zimbabwean nationals who live in George have reached out to assist their fellow citizens.

Zimbabwean national Pastor Tapson Blawundy says, “I came here after I was called to come and assist by firstly interpretation… Well, you need to use your vernacular language. As we have a Zimbabwean community, when things happen most Zimbabweans are at work not at the site. So, I helped those who were grieving and updated those who were at work.”

They have called on the government to revise the lengthy documentation process for foreign nationals.

“Some people because they’re desperate to get a job, they use a document that is not theirs, which we don’t condone. In a disaster like this, they’re identifying the wrong person as being deceased. My appeal to the South African government is if all the minds can come together and sort out this problem. Most people here don’t want to be undocumented, but the process is cumbersome,” urges Zimbabwean national Freddy Mafa.

To assist in the identification process, authorities have requested families who have lost contact with their loved ones to go to the George Civic Centre.

Video: George Building Collapse – Families express heartbreak as they identify loved ones