Durban - A REPORT by the forensic team gathering evidence at the scene of the church collapse near Empangeni, northern KwaZulu-Natal, will determine the next steps to be taken in dealing with the tragedy.
The provincial cabinet held a special meeting on Monday to reflect on the tragedy, which claimed the lives of 13 worshippers when the wall of their Pentecostal Holiness Church collapsed due to violent storms on Thursday evening. The congregants were preparing to rest inside the church after the day’s service.
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said yesterday the forensic task team was still busy on the site, gathering information.
“We will wait for the report, but for now what is critical is to assist the grieving families, and all these processes are running parallel,” he said.
Premier Willies Mchunu said the tragedy was unprecedented in the number of fatalities.
“The rescue and recovery operations were conducted until the early hours of Friday.
“Despite these heroic efforts, 13 people were declared dead. What is even more deeply saddening about this disaster is that 12 of the deceased are women and a young child. We have basically lost the genesis of our society: mothers, sisters and wives.
“We are advised that forensic teams are still busy with their investigative reports on this horrific accident and we will communicate the outcomes once all processes are concluded,” said Mchunu during a media briefing yesterday.
He said the dead were transported to a government mortuary in Richards Bay.
The critically injured were transported to the Ngwelezane Hospital and others were treated for minor injuries at Ngwelezane Clinic. Those in hospital (16) were treated for fractures, with one still in the intensive care unit.
The provincial government has resolved to provide support to all the bereaved families, including those of the five people who died in a car accident, which took place in the same municipal district over the weekend.
Cogta will co-ordinate the effort on behalf of the government, with affected families visiting the mortuary in the area to identify their loved ones with the assistance of the provincial health and social development departments.
A memorial service for the collapse and accident victims will be held in Empangeni on Thursday.
“This catastrophe has clearly underlined the need for communal support during these difficult times. This is a time to come together to pray, grieve and to extend a helping hand,” Mchunu said.
The provincial labour department could not comment on the matter yesterday.
When asked what his department was doing in the aftermath of the collapse, and if the incident would receive attention similar to that paid to the Tongaat Mall collapse in 2013, in which three people died, Nhlanhla Khumalo, provincial labour department spokesperson, said that only the department’s chief inspector could comment on the matter.
Church spokesperson Reverend Phiwayinkosi Sibiya said all the formal investigations were under way.
He said only professional builders were involved in the construction of the church in early 2000.