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By Kyle Zeeman

Digital News Editor

George building collapse: Government calls for public to help send dead back home

Government has called on members of the public and the private sector to help send the bodies of the dead back home.

Eleven of the 18 people identified among the dead from last week’s building collapse in George, Western Cape, were foreigners, the local municipality has revealed.

More than 80 people were trapped when a building under construction crumbled. As of Monday morning, 33 people had died and 19 people were unaccounted for. Rescuers have so far recovered 62 people, with 12 currently in hospital.

Many of those on-site at the time of the collapse were from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Efforts to identify those who had died in the collapse have been ongoing, with the George Municipality revealing the nationalities of the deceased on Tuesday.

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Seven of the 18 identified so far are South African, with five coming from Malawi and three from Zimbabwe.

Two of the dead were from Mozambique, while one was from Lesotho.

Fourteen of the 18 were male.

How the dead are identified

“The identification of descendants is the responsibility of the South African Police Service (SAPS). The Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness FSP [Forensic Pathology Service] manages the visual identification in support of the SAPS.

“After an incident such as this, visual identification can understandably be difficult and traumatic for family members and requires SAPS to undertake identification through scientific means, of which DNA testing is one method,” the municipality explained.

Repatriation underway

Speaking to eNCA, Deputy Minister of International Relations Alvin Botes said efforts were underway to repatriate those who have died.

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“We have been engaging with mission representatives of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Of course, the key matter that concerns us is the repatriation process back to their countries of origin.”

He called on members of the public and the private sector to assist government by “rallying” material and financial support for the families of the deceased.

He later responded to claims that countries were not willing to assist with these repatriation process, telling Newzroom Afrika that “consulate services do not ordinarily include repatriation of private citizens in the event of untimely death”.

That is also the policy of the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation. However, be that as it may, this is an unprecedented tragedy. Therefore, there are ongoing engagements with the heads of missions.”

Watch his comments below.