Building collapse guard tells of horror

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Copy of ST main ruins840 THE STAR A vehicle lies crushed in the ruins of the old Orlando power station in Soweto. Despite the danger, opportunists continued to enter the ruins yesterday and delayed the search for those trapped inside, forcing police to cordon off the area. Picture: Chris Collingridge


Johannesburg - The security guard who first arrived after the old Orlando power station in Soweto collapsed is haunted by the blood, broken bones and destruction he witnessed.

Ndidzulafhi Mukwevho arrived at work at 5am on Wednesday, about 20 minutes after the building collapsed, allegedly because the structure had been weakened by the theft of metal – trapping metal scavengers inside.

Four men were killed, another had his lower arm amputated at the scene, and four victims were taken to hospital, said Joburg Emergency Services spokeswoman Nana Radebe.

Radebe said a man's body was removed from the rubble and handed to police, while the bodies of three others were still under the rubble.


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Mukwevho, who guards the City Power substation next door to the building, said on Thursday: “I just saw dust, it was everywhere. I just saw the building had collapsed.”

He then phoned police and paramedics and saw one of the alleged metal thieves lying on the ground.

“He was bleeding from his mouth and (above) his eyes. He kept saying ‘I’m dying’. I said ‘no, you’re not dying as long as your eyes are open’,” Mukwevho said.

He said the man told him his ribs were broken on the right side and it looked as though the man’s right leg was also broken at the shin.

Fellow security guard Enos Ndou said:

“He was terribly injured, but he kept on talking. He’s a strong guy.”

Paramedics then arrived and attended to the man.


Radebe said the man whose lower arm was amputated was trapped by a beam that fell on his hand.

“We spent five hours removing the rubble so that doctors could get to him. There was a beam that was in the way and moving it would have made the structure collapse.

“In the meantime, paramedics stabilised him and gave him blankets so that hypothermia would not set in and his body go into shock. The two doctors were finally able to go in and amputate his left hand,” Radebe said.

The rescue operations involved 40 people.

Stories of those missing after the accident also started to emerge.

Ntembiso Malunga had just received a call from his cousin on Saturday morning.

The call was from Sihle Chiliza, telling Malunga that he had secured a job for him at a metal company. The job was to steal metal and steel from the Orlando power station.

The 23-year-old took a taxi from KwaZulu-Natal for Joburg later that evening.

The pair were last seen on Tuesday morning. Their families believe they might be among those trapped under the

rubble and metal.

On Thursday afternoon, the family was left shattered when officials announced that the death toll had risen.

Chiliza’s aunt, Nonzuzo Mgwadla, said her nephew had informed the family he worked for a steel company.

“We didn’t know it was this kind of a job… We understand there are no jobs, but associating himself with this was too dangerous and wrong. It’s a crime,” said Mgwadla.


Police spokesman Warrant Officer Kay Makhubela said families would be called to identify the bodies once a case had been registered.


By 6pm, three more bodies were still trapped under the rubble.

The search for bodies or more trapped men was delayed because returning thieves kept throwing sniffer dogs off the scent.

Police had to cordon off the area before resuming the search.

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