/ 13 May 2024

Death toll from George building collapse reaches 27

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The death toll from the building collapse in George, Western Cape, has reached 27

The death toll from the building collapse in George, Western Cape, has reached 27, one week after the five-storey property on 75 Victoria Street fell to the ground, leaving  workers trapped under the rubble.

The George municipality confirmed that 56 people have been retrieved from under the debris, while 25 are still unaccounted for. 

Rescue workers and volunteer staff have been on site for 169 hours, trying to retrieve all 81 workers who were on the site when the building collapsed. 

In a sombre reflection on the tragedy, the George community held a moment of silence at the site at 2.09pm on Monday.

“This act of solidarity is a gesture to honour those who perished and to extend our heartfelt support to the families affected by this tragedy,” said George mayor Leon van Wyk.

On Saturday, George residents celebrated after 33-year-old tiler Gabriel Guambe was rescued from the rubble 118 hours after the building collapsed. 

“We are very happy and it gives us hope that we can find more people hopefully alive after all this time,” Van Wyk said. 

In a statement, the George municipality said it was experiencing difficulties in obtaining the correct names of the people still missing or who had died after the building collapsed. 

“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,”  municipality spokesperson Chantel Edwards said. 

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

During a site visit last Thursday, the department of employment and labour said it had launched an investigation into the collapse

Although the international standard for such rescue operations is three days, the Western Cape provincial disaster management unit said it would continue with efforts to rescue the 25 people still unaccounted for.