With more than 900 bodies unclaimed at Gauteng mortuaries, health officials are appealing to families with missing loved ones to come forward as the body count is increasing daily.
The Gauteng Department of Health said there were 938 unclaimed and unidentified bodies across its 11 Forensic Pathology Service mortuaries in the province.
MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko said it was concerning that the number of unclaimed and unidentified bodies was increasing daily.
“There are families who have been looking for their loved ones, not knowing where they are. We encourage them to visit FPS mortuaries to check if their loved ones are not part of the unclaimed bodies, and if that is the case, they can give them a proper burial,” Nkomo-Ralehoko said.
The department explained that if the deceased was a foreign national, a passport, asylum seeker certificate or a letter from their country of origin confirming the identity of the deceased and to whom the remains should be handed over, was needed.
If a body is not identified or claimed within seven days, fingerprints are sent to the SAPS Criminal Record Centre for identification and to the Department of Home Affairs for matching with their records.
“If the identification process was successful, the next of kin are made aware of the deceased through the SAPS investigating officer for final release and burial or cremation. If the body is still unidentified 30 days after exhausting means of identification including the use of fingerprints, pauper burial processes are used for the final burial of the deceased,” Nkomo-Ralehoko said.
The Gauteng FPS also publishes the names of the deceased on media platforms to give families the opportunity to arrange a dignified burial for their family member.
People are advised to update their home addresses with the Department of Home Affairs when they move as this makes it easier to trace relatives in situations like these.
A family member or relative who wishes to identify their loved one should have their original identity document, the ID of the deceased or their birth certificate if the deceased is a child.