Joburg Fire: Traumatic wait for families of the deceased


Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – HARROWING days lie ahead for residents that believe family members are among the 74 that died in the fire mishap in Johannesburg on Thursday.

After it emerged a majority of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition.

Motalatale Modiba, the spokesperson of the Health Department in the province of Gauteng, confirmed that 62 bodies were burnt beyond recognition after the fire that gutted the five-storey building in the Marshalltown area.

Only 12 bodies were identifiable.

Thus, those that believe family members are among those burnt beyond identification have to undergo deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) tests to ascertain if the relatives are among the deceased.

Police will carry out the tests.

“It will take a while to finalise the harvesting of DNA samples,” Thembalethu Mpahlaza, the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the province’s Forensic Pathology Services (FPS), told media.

On Friday, families heeded the call to come forward and identify the bodies at the Diepkloof FPS mortuary in Soweto.

Mphahlaza said the families had received counseling.

The mortuary will also be open on Sunday.

Amid indications that among the deceased were foreign nationals, there is concern family members that are not documented might be reluctant but Modiba encouraged them to come forward.

The health department confirmed officials from the Home Affairs would be assisting such families.

While the nationalities of the deceased had not been ascertained at the time of going to press, the Zimbabwean Embassy told CAJ News Africa that five Zimbabweans are believed to have died in the inferno.

Majority of the foreign nationals that died in the inferno are Malawians, Mozambicans and a few others from Lesotho, but the biggest is believed to be that of local South Africans.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed sadness at the tragedy and pledged to assist.

“We stand ready to provide support to refugees and asylum-seekers who may be affected by this tragic incident. Our thoughts and condolences are with the families of the victims,” said a spokesperson.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), commiserated with South Africa and expressed solidarity with the government of Cyril Ramaphosa amid the tragedy.

Ramaphosa on Thursday cancelled a nation address on the recent Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) that his country hosted.

He instead visited the scene of the fire. The building was owned by the City of Johannesburg but is one of many that have been hijacked by criminal syndicates.

Ramaphosa said the government would ensure that those who need assistance, from alternative accommodation to trauma counselling, were looked after.

At the building where the dozens perished, the situation was somber on Friday as leaders of the South African Council of Churches held a prayer session.

Members of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were searching for more bodies at the building said to be home to over 200 people.

“There is a possibility that we might find other bodies,” Robert Mulaudzi, provincial EMS spokesperson, said.

– CAJ News

scroll to top