George building disaster kills 5, 25 saved

Published May 7, 2024


The rescue operation at a multi-storey building that collapsed in George on Monday afternoon, was expected to last through the night with at least five fatalities reported.

The apartment building on Victoria Street, adjacent to the municipality building, was under construction when it collapsed in a plume of smoke just after 2pm with a number of on-site workers and staff inside.

On Monday evening police confirmed two fatalities and said an inquest docket was opened for investigation.

By Tuesday morning the municipality confirmed 25 people were rescued and sent to hospitals throughout the area.

Rescue and disaster management teams from Cape Town and Worcester were deployed as extra reinforcement to assist on site in an emergency effort to rescue trapped workers.

George mayor, Leon van Wyk, said the building collapse was a tragedy.

“We are very concerned for the lives of the staff on site that were caught and trapped beneath rubble.

“An extensive rescue was started shortly after the collapse which included calling in a number of cranes to lift and move rubble.

“We are very concerned about the workers and have made efforts for their families to be assisted in the foyer of the municipality building

“The building has a basement and multi-floors and was still under construction. There were no tenants in occupancy,” said Van Wyk.

Police spokesperson Christopher Spies said an active search and rescue operation was carried out at the site on Monday.

“An inquest docket was opened after the body of a man was retrieved from the debris.

“Eighteen victims with multiple injuries were transported to nearby medical facilities for medical treatment.

“The search and rescue operation is ongoing and therefore no detailed information can be divulged at this stage. Multi-disciplinary search and rescue teams descended to assist.

“These teams will be co-ordinated by EMS specialist from a joint operational centre,” said Spies.

@capetimessa Emergency staff from the City of Cape Town and Breede Valley Local Municipality have joined the emergency and disaster teams on site as the search continues for 51 unaccounted persons trapped. #collapsedbuilding #rescueoperation #newsheadlines ♬ Danger - SoundAudio

Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said the City had deployed heavy-duty technical rescue vehicles from its firefighting fleet to assist at the construction site.

“We have specialised heavy-duty, technical rescue vehicles in our firefighting fleet, with an assortment of rescue and search equipment, especially catering for situations where structures have collapsed.

“We have assembled 10 firefighters and have deployed two of our technical rescue trucks, on their way to assist,” said Smith.

Municipality spokesperson Chantel Edwards-Klose confirmed the municipality building was closed temporarily as a precaution along with the area.

Residents and the public were urged to stay away from the scene to ensure emergency vehicles could access the site.

Municipality spokesperson, Ntobeko Mangqwengqwe, said disaster service teams with 53 personnel from George and Garden Route District Municipality were involved in the rescue operation.

“The collapse occurred just after 2pm yesterday, with a construction crew of approximately 70 on site. Family and friends of the construction workers involved in the incident are being given space to gather at the foyer of the main municipal building and will be assisted,” said Mangqwengqwe.

The property’s developers declined to comment on Monday.

The Western Cape Government (WCG) was closely monitoring the situation.

Premier Alan Winde and relevant provincial ministers and government officials were briefed on the incident last night.

Winde said: “All the necessary support has been offered to emergency personnel to expedite their response.

At the moment, officials are focused on saving lives. This is our top priority at this stage.”

Members of the public who wished to provide drinking water or any food for the personnel on site were encouraged to deliver donations via Ivy Street at 79 Victoria Street, Delplan Consulting.

Cape Times