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Gauteng government commits to supporting fire victims — 44 bodies still unidentified

Gauteng government commits to supporting fire victims — 44 bodies still unidentified
Victims of the Johannesburg fire receive aid from Gauteng MEC Mzi Khumalo at the Wembley Stadium Homeless Centre on 11 September 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

In the aftermath of the devastating 80 Albert Street fire in Johannesburg, Gauteng MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Mzi Khumalo stood in solidarity with the survivors. He said the provincial government was committed to working closely with the City of Johannesburg to provide crucial support.

‘We are with you in this difficult time.” Speaking to Marshalltown fire survivors while visiting the three shelters across the city where they are living temporarily, Gauteng MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Mzi Khumalo said: “We want to continue to work with the City of Johannesburg in supporting them because they are playing a huge role in trying to accommodate everyone. All of us are trying to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”

gauteng fire khumalo

Gauteng MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Mzi Khumalo addresses victims at the Wembley Stadium Homeless Centre on 11 September 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The flames that engulfed the Usindiso Building at 80 Albert Street in Marshalltown claimed 77 lives – 74 died at the scene and three more succumbed to their injuries in local hospitals. The disaster displaced hundreds of families and left them with urgent housing needs.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tragedy and miracles unfold: Remembering the many Albert Street fire victims

The City of Johannesburg offered the Wembley Stadium homeless shelter, Impilo Shelter and Hofland Recreation Centre as temporary housing for those displaced by the fire, as they begin to rebuild their lives.

gauteng fire victim

Joburg fire victim Roberto Machavane at the Wembley Stadium Homeless Centre on 11 September 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Khumalo’s visit to the shelters on Monday, 11 September came amid a city crackdown on suspected hijacked buildings and properties, an initiative that recently resulted in the arrest of 23 people, including an IFP councillor subsequently released without charge.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Deadly fire prompts City of Joburg to seek legal clarity on evictions from hijacked buildings

Khumalo’s visit had a twofold purpose: to extend a helping hand to the affected residents and to convey the government’s “unwavering support”. He donated packs (including a facecloth, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, gloves, a hat and socks) and sleeping bags, as a gesture of solidarity and comfort.

While the city has provided temporary accommodation to the fire victims, organisations and individuals have rallied together to address the immediate needs of those left homeless and traumatised by the fire. Donations of food, clothing, mattresses and blankets have poured in, demonstrating the power of community and compassion.

joburg fire

Victims of the Joburg fire receive aid from Gauteng MEC Mzi Khumalo during his visit to the Wembley Stadium Homeless Centre. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

However, the road to recovery remains long, and there is an ongoing need for assistance. The victims of the Joburg fire are facing the formidable challenge of rebuilding their lives from the ground up, and every helping hand counts.

Read more in Daily Maverick: How to help? Call for urgent humanitarian aid as hundreds of Johannesburg fire victims face uncertain future

Amid the tragedy, a sombre truth lingers – many of the deceased still need to be identified. Of the 77 who died, only 30 have been positively identified, leaving 44 still awaiting identification, according to the Gauteng Department of Health.

The department’s latest update, on 10 September, revealed that 76 families had come forward to report their loved ones still missing. This has led to the compilation of a list of 74 names, potentially belonging to those who died in the inner-city fire.

“As of Sunday, 10 September 2023, 76 families have presented at the Diepkloof mortuary to report their loved ones, which has resulted in a line list of 74 names that possibly perished in the Johannesburg inner city fire being developed. The South African Police Service Victim Identification Centre Unit has drawn 38 antemortem swabs from the families and is currently cross-referencing these to the DNA samples from the unidentifiable bodies as part of linking families with their deceased loved ones,” the Gauteng Department of Health reported. DM


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