George Building Collapse: President Ramaphosa visits collapse site

17 May 2024 | SANews

President Cyril Ramaphosa has assured the families of the deceased and injured workers who were trapped inside the collapsed building in George, that government will do everything possible to assist.

“We do not want to increase the burden, the suffering, and the grief that you are going through. We want to be there as government at all levels to demonstrate our compassion,” President Ramaphosa said.

During the site visit yesterday (Thursday 16 May 2024), the President held a briefing with various people involved in the rescue and dealing with all aspects of the disaster, including a number of Ministers, and Western Cape Premier, Allan Winde, where he received an update on the extent of the work done and support that has been provided for the families since the disaster struck.

Video: President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at the Garden Route District Municipality offices in George

Photo: The President received a full briefing on the George disaster including search and recovery operations, extrication of trapped victims, resource mobilisation and investigations underway to establish facts around what led to the disaster.

President Ramaphosa commended the effort that is going into dealing with the incident, including the professionalism, capability and knowledge displayed by those involved.

The President said he is satisfied that South Africa is able to deal with disasters, particularly this one until it reaches finality.

He assured the bereaved families that government will leave no stone unturned and will ensure accountability.

“It will take some time for all aspects of this disaster to be properly tied together… I can assure you that the seriousness in which this matter is being [dealt with] will lead to the truth coming out,” the President said, urging for patience while the investigation continues.

While acknowledging that the families are grieving and need immediate solutions and answers to their questions, the President assured that all officials dealing with the matter are going to remain transparent.

“We are a transparent government. We are able to reveal everything as it should be revealed. Let us have a level of patience. I know it is very difficult for those who have lost their loved ones to have that level of patience,” the President said.

The President also offered his condolences to the bereaved families, and wished those who are in hospital a speedy recovery.

We are currently focusing on saving lives, caring for the injured, making sure that the remains of those who have lost their lives, are well put together so that those who need to be repatriated can be repatriated, and those who need to be buried here can also be buried,” President Ramaphosa said.

The rescue operation is now in its second week. 

81 workers were on-site when the multi-storey, newly constructed, apartment building simply collapsed on Monday (6 May 2024) shortly after 2PM.

Hundreds of emergency services personnel from across the province are on the scene, working day and night. The cause of the collapse is not yet known, but various independent investigations are underway. Experts have told media outlets that the investigation could take up to a year to complete.

33 declared dead (updated on Friday Morning 17 May 2024)

-62 have been retrieved from the rubble (33 are deceased – 27 males, 6 females)

-12 are still in hospital

-19 of the initial 81 workers on site remain missing.

True Heroes

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has thanked all those assisting during this tragedy.

“From the first responders who have been working tirelessly since Monday afternoon to save the lives of the trapped construction workers, to residents who turned out in their numbers to offer help in any way that they can. You all make me as your Premier of this extraordinary province humble and grateful for everything you have done and are still doing,” the Premier said after touring the site.

He said the teams on the ground are working tirelessly.

“I cannot express the emotions I felt when the site suddenly went completely quiet in the hope that our teams might be close to locating another survivor.”

He also took the time to express his gratitude to the Western Cape residents for stepping up when confronted with incidents of this nature.

He added that while an arduous few days still lie ahead as search and rescue efforts continue, the heart and soul that volunteers and non-government organisations (NGOs) have shown in offering support to the families of the affected construction workers has been extraordinary.

“There are so many to thank, and I know that there are countless more organisations and residents that I must still thank. Thank you to LoveGeorge, Gift of the Givers, SARZA, the Lions of George, Garden Route Food Pantry and Food Sock Meals, Neighbourhood Watches and Community Policing Forums, and all the individual residents who have helped.”

Without us all pulling together, we would not have been able to respond to this incident in the way that we have. We must not give up hope. To all the emergency personnel assisting: you are true heroes,” he said.

Winde said his heart goes out to the families of the deceased.

“I share your pain. We will do everything we can to ensure we determine the exact cause of this incident. Every time one of those huge pieces of concrete is lifted from the site, I hope fervently for good news.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa offered his deep condolences to the relatives and friends of the deceased.

“The President’s thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones as well as the families of those who are trapped in the rubble,” his statement read.

He also wished the rescue team the best as they go about their operations and said the investigations into the cause of the incident must aim to bring closure to the community and prevent a repeat of this disaster.

How you can help

*For enquiries please contact: Gift of the Givers: Mario Ferreira (082 490 2752) and Herman Pienaar (082 829 6428)

*For financial donations, Please use below banking details as provided by George Municipality

George Municipality: Relief and Charitable Fund

ABSA BANK Cheque Acc: 9149554208
Branch Code: 632005

Photos by: GRDM / Gift of the Givers

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