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Joint Media Release: George building collapse rescue and recovery operation concluded

Issued on behalf of the Western Cape Government

“Today we concluded the George building collapse rescue and recovery operation,” said Anton Bredell Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs, and Development Planning. Minister Bredell added that this disaster will be remembered for the immense and tragic loss of life, but also for the incredibly brave and selfless work carried out by the more than 1 000 rescue, support, and volunteer workers who were involved since Monday, 6 May, when the incident occurred.

The rescue operation saw more than 6 000 tons of rubble being carefully removed while rescue workers searched for survivors. The operation lasted 260 hours, with personnel working on a 24-hour basis, with 2 shifts on rotation.

Premier Alan Winde said, “This has been an exceptionally difficult time for us all. But through it all, our disaster management workers and volunteers persevered with the sole aim of saving the lives of as many people as possible. My heartfelt condolences go to the families of the 33 victims. We share your pain and will do everything we can to hold those responsible for this tragedy accountable.”

Minister Bredell confirmed that the numbers of people involved in the collapse were:

62 people were on the building site when the collapse occurred;
34 people were successfully rescued;
33 people passed away, including 5 people who were rescued, but sadly succumbed to their injuries in hospital;
10 people are still in hospital, and 19 people have either been discharged or received on site medical treatment.

The Minister said that although there were several revisions to the number of people who were reported to be on site when the collapse happened and during the rescue operation; it is important to understand that rescue personnel had to work under extremely difficult conditions, with the information provided to them at the time based on information received from the contractor on site, the South African Police Service (SAPS) and other emerging external sources. “I am very happy that we could revise the number of people on site down from 81 to 62, as it means fewer families are grieving today,” he stated.

Premier Winde concurred adding, “Our attention is now focused on the investigation that the Western Cape Government (WCG) launched just hours after the incident. This was a devastating tragedy. We need to understand what happened and what steps need to be taken to ensure that we do whatever we can to hold those who need to be held to account.”

An update on this investigation will be provided in due course.

“This operation saw a rescue rate of 54.8%, which is truly remarkable when compared with international statistics which indicate a rescue rate of only 10% during similar building collapse scenarios. This is testament to the brave and professional work of our rescue workers, and the result of years of investing and training in our provincial disaster capabilities, which are world-class. There were so many tough and difficult moments for our teams on the ground during this operation, and I am so proud of our team for every life saved. I know what it did for all of us when our teams pulled Gabriel from the rubble early on Saturday morning. And I must again recognise all the residents of this province who pulled together and showed immense compassion and support, thank you,” concluded Premier Winde.