George building collapse: Rescue and recovery operation concluded

Friday, May 17, 2024

The George building collapse rescue and recovery operation has concluded, Western Cape Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell announced on Friday.

This follows an operation which lasted 260 hours, with personnel working on a 24-hour basis, with two shifts on rotation.

In a joint media statement released on Friday, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said the 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 the incident occurred on 6 May 2024.

“The rescue operation saw more than 6 000 tons of rubble being carefully removed while rescue workers searched for survivors. 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,” Winde said.

Revised number of people on site 

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.

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, 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,” Winde said.

According to the latest update issued by George Municipality on Friday at 9am, 62 people were on the building site when the building collapse occurred; 34 people were successfully rescued; 33 people passed away, including five people who were rescued, but later succumbed to their injuries in hospital.

Ten people are still in hospital and 19 people have either been discharged or received medical treatment on site.

Winde expressed his heartfelt condolences to the families of deceased.

“We share your pain and will do everything we can to hold those responsible for this tragedy accountable,” he said.

The Premier reiterated the attention is now focused on the investigation launched by the provincial government 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,” Winde said.

Winde also commended the rescue team for every life saved, while they were on the ground during the operation.

“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,” Winde said. –