Joburg fire death toll rises to 77, as Zimbabwean and Malawian diplomats visit victims

Bodies lying on the floor

Fire gutted a five-storey building in Joburg CBD on Thursday morning, leaving a death toll of at least 77. File Picture: Timothy Bernard / African news Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 3, 2023


Another person, one of the victims rescued from the Joburg central building which burnt last week, has died in hospital, according to the Gauteng Department of Health.

The patient died on Saturday.

The death toll from the hijacked Usindiso Building has now risen to 77, while more than 30 patients are still being treated in different facilities in Gauteng.

“Out of the 88 patients that were seen at various health facilities - Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Helen Joseph Hospital, South Rand Hospital, Tembisa Hospital, Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital and Hillbrow Community Health Centre - only 31 people are still receiving care,” said Gauteng Department of Health’s spokesperson Motalatale Modiba.

“Of the 31 patients in admission, only five still need semi-critical care however, they are fully awake. The admitted patients are not impacting on the normal flow of trauma patients in facilities.”

Regarding the deceased, Modiba said authorities are conducting post-mortems on 74 bodies that were burnt in the apartheid-era Central Pass Office.

“As more families come forth to report their loved ones who might have perished in the fire incident, the Gauteng Department of Health can confirm that it is on track to complete conducting post-mortems on the 74 deceased bodies. By Saturday evening, pathologist had done post-mortems on 58 bodies and were only left with 16 to be concluded on Sunday (today),” he said.

“There are 62 unidentifiable bodies at the Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Services mortuary and 12 identifiable corpses.”

To date, Modiba said 40 families have presented at the facility to report their loved ones which has resulted in a line list of 66 names that possibly perished in the fire being developed.

Prayer sessions were held outside the building which was gutted by a fire in Joburg central. Picture: Timothy Bernard / African News Agency( ANA)

“Nine families have already identified their loved ones form the 12 identifiable bodies. Once the families conclude necessary processes and produce required identification documents the mortal remains will be release to them for burial,” he said.

“The South African Police Service’s Victim Identification Centre has been hard at work and so far, 43 DNA samples have been taken by from the 74 bodies with 13 antemortem swabbing (DNA samples for families) linking to 23 of the unidentifiable people have been done. Antemortem samples will only be taken form the siblings or the parent of the deceased.”

Once the samples are taken from the deceased and from the family members, they will be cross referenced to match them as part of linking families with their deceased loved one.

Counselling services continue to be provided on site at the Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Services mortuary through the clergy and provincial health psychologists.

“The Gauteng provincial government has availed a hotline number to assist family members locate their loved ones. Enquiries can be made through the tollfree hotline number on 0800 203 886 or direct line during office hours on 0113553048/0112415707,” said Modiba.

Fire gutted a five-storey building in Joburg CBD on Thursday morning, leaving a death toll of at least 77. File Picture: Timothy Bernard / African news Agency (ANA)

Meanwhile, representatives from the embassies of Zimbabwe and Malawi on Saturday visited the Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Services to establish the status of people from their respective countries.

The diplomats also wanted to establish the support they can provide to the victims.