The Gauteng health department has confirmed that only 12 of the 74 bodies retrieved from the five-storey building gutted by fire yesterday morning were identifiable.
Gauteng Forensic Pathology Services spokesperson Thembalethu Mpahlaza, was addressing the media after a visit to a Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Services branch on Friday, when he said: “We realised this morning that, out of the 74 bodies, only 12 were identifiable – 62 of these bodies were burnt beyond recognition and it will take a little while to identify them.”
Yesterday, city officials led by Joburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda said the dead were made up of 24 women and 40 men; 10 were unidentifiable, and 12 were children, with the youngest being an 18-month-old baby.
The fire ripped through the building used by South Africans and foreigners who had no proper shelter in the city of Joburg.
Inside, living conditions were said to be deplorable, with residents erecting shacks inside.
It is reported that more than 500 people had been living there at the time of the fire.
Officials said only a few bodies had been moved to the Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Services mortuary. The remaining bodies were awaiting transport from the Hillbrow mortuary.
The government urged families of the deceased to go to the Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Services mortuary in Soweto to identify them.
The mortuary will also be open on Saturdays and Sundays.
The inner-city building on the corner of Albert and Delvers streets was gutted in the early hours of Thursday.
On Friday morning, families could be seen making their way into the mortuary to identify their loved ones. But some hoping to get the process done quickly were disappointed as they were left waiting in the parking lot for nearly two hours.
Gauteng health spokesperson Motaletale Modiba confirmed that there were bodies at the Hillbrow mortuary and that they would all be transported to Soweto ahead of the identification process.
The department is expected to brief the media and provide updates on the process.