Death toll from Jhb fire now at 77

Henry

The number of people who lost their lives in the devastating fire in Johannesburg on Thursday morning now stands at 77, confirmed Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, MEC of Health in Gauteng.

The Department of Health in Gauteng gave feedback on patients who were treated at various health facilities on Saturday evening. Feedback on post-mortem examinations is also included.

Out of the 88 patients admitted to various health facilities, 31 people are still being treated for their injuries.

“Of these 31 patients, only five still need semi-critical care, but they are conscious,” says Nkomo-Ralehoko.

“The patients admitted have no impact on the normal flow of trauma patients in facilities.”

Nkomo-Ralehoko says she can confirm that the department is on track to complete the post-mortem examinations of the 74 deceased.

“As more families come forward to report their loved ones who may have perished in the fire incident, I can confirm that by Saturday evening pathologists had already completed 58 post-mortem examinations and that there were only 16 left to complete on Sunday.”

According to the department, there are 62 unidentifiable bodies at the Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Services (FOD) morgue and 12 identifiable bodies. Nine families have already identified their loved ones from the 12 identifiable bodies.

“Once the families have completed the necessary procedures and provided the required identification documents, the bodies of their loved ones will be handed over to them for burial,” says Nkomo-Ralehoko.

To date, 40 families have called at the facility to report their loved ones, after which a list has been created with 66 names of persons who may have perished in the fire.

According to Nkomo-Ralehoko, the police victim identification center is working very hard and they have so far taken 43 DNA samples from 74 bodies and taken 13 DNA samples from family members that could be linked to 23 of the unidentifiable bodies.

“DNA samples can only be taken from immediate family members (siblings or parents). Once the samples have been taken for the deceased and from the family members, they will be cross-referenced to match them as part of the identification of the deceased.”

Counseling services are still provided at the Diepkloof FPS mortuary by clergy as well as the department’s psychologists.

The Gauteng provincial government has also made a hotline number available to help family members locate their loved ones. Inquiries can be made by calling the toll-free hotline number on 0800 203 886 or direct line during office hours on 011 355 3048/011 241 5707.

Meanwhile, representatives of the embassies of Zimbabwe and Malawi visited the Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Services on Saturday to ascertain the status of people from their respective countries and to see what kind of support they can offer.