Molefe Seeletsa
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
18 Apr 2022
10:42 am

Funeral industry urged to ‘stop creating false sense of alarm’ over ‘backlog’ in KZN mortuaries

Molefe Seeletsa

More than 400 people have died as a result of the floods in KZN.

A morgue attendant at AVBOB's Covid-19 corpse fridge in Johannesburg on 1 February 2021. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) government has dismissed reports that its mortuaries in the province are unable to cope with the amount of bodies coming in.

KZN premier Sihle Zikalala addressed the media on Sunday to give an update on the provincial government’s response to the flood disaster.

During the briefing, Zikalala confirmed that more than 400 people have since lost their lives while just over 60 people were missing.

ALSO READ: ‘All hands on deck’: Ramaphosa postpones Middle East trip amid KZN floods

“The current inclement weather had slowed our assessment and rescue operations on the ground, but we are once again back into full swing.

“As of this morning, KZN received 38 call-outs and on the scenes that were attended, six bodies were recovered. We stand at approximately 63 persons missing or unaccounted for. The death toll now stands at 443,” he said.

Mortuaries

Zikalala also said government is in control of the situation at the mortuaries.

This is after reports suggested that government mortuaries, two of which are located in Durban, had a backlog in conducting post-mortems.

“With regard to mortuaries we are in control of the situation through the Department of Health. We have completed 243 post-mortems, and are left with 114 more to complete.

“We have mobilised additional resources, including seven doctors, to ensure that post-mortems are completed speedily, in order to avoid congestion, and to enable those who are grieving to bury their loved ones,” he said.

READ MORE: How government plans to respond to KZN floods

The premier said that officials were constantly monitoring the situation and sending bodies to facilities that have space.

Zikalala urged the funeral industry to “stop creating a false sense of alarm”.

“We are appealing to those who have lost their loved ones to be patient, and wish to assure them that we are doing the best we can under the circumstances.

“We would also like to appeal to funeral conductors to stop creating a false sense of alarm, and to allow our forensic pathologists to do their work unhindered – and to collect bodies that have been completed without delay,” he said.

The National Funeral Practitioners Association of South Africa (Napufasa) had previously called on the KZN government to release bodies without conducting post-mortems.

“It will have a negative effect on us. The families would have already waited a week by the time bodies get to us. So, they would want to bury as quickly as they can.

“As we speak, the government mortuaries are not coping with the number of bodies that are piling up at the morgue.

“So, if there was a way that we could skip the post-mortems we would appreciate that bodies be viewed and declared that they can be released,” Napufasa president Muzi Hlengwa told SABC News on Sunday.

Burials

Meanwhile, the KZN government has committed to assisting families who lost their loved ones, as a result of the floods, with burials.

“This morning the [provincial] executive council approved the provincial policy on government support funeral assistance to people who passed away as a result of the flood disasters.

READ MORE: ‘I still don’t believe’: KZN flood survivor mourns losing 10 family members in landslide

“Municipalities have policies to assist the needy and the indigent and are currently conducting profiling in line with their policies. Partners such as AVBOB have also committed to supporting about 150 people,” Zikalala said on Sunday.

“We are aware that due to water and electricity challenges there have been delays with post-mortem reports but the Department of Health is attending to the situation. Every needy family will be supported and as of today, we will be ready to assist families that are ready to lay their loved ones to rest,” the premier added.