Garden Route District MM shares words of appreciation to Role-players of partially-built Building Collapse Rescue and Recovery Operations

Garden Route District MM shares words of appreciation to Role-players of partially-built Building Collapse Rescue and Recovery Operations

For nearly two weeks since 6 May 2024, the town of George in the Western Cape, South Africa experienced a disaster unimaginable when a partially-built building collapsed with workers from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Lesotho trapped inside.

The collapse prompted a unified response of experts from Local, Provincial and National Government. Individuals from a diverse background joined together to support the families affected by the tragedy and to keep everyone informed as each minute of the rescue and recovery efforts unfolded. Local rescuers and teams from across the country, including urban search and rescue experts, rescue technicians, doctors, paramedics, firefighters, K-9 Police dogs with their dog-handlers, machinery operators, law enforcement, forensic experts, and support personnel worked tirelessly at the site, extracting workers from the rubble.

Hospitals were inundated with patients, and volunteers, as well as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Faith Based Organisations rallied to provide assistance to the rescue teams. A church choir and spiritual leaders were also at the site to provide comfort. As the days went by, the Multi-Agency Command Centre (MACC) coordinated by Gerhard Otto, Garden Route District Municipality’s (GRDM) Manager for Disaster Management, released updates with the assistance of Communicators from GRDM, George, Western Cape Government Department of Local Government, SAPS, as well as WCG Health and Wellness, to members of the public and media regarding the latest status of the rescue and recovery efforts.

At the MACC were representatives present from WCG, GRDM, George Municipality, Emergency Medical Services, the South African Police Service, The Forensic Pathology Service, National Department of Employment and Labour and the WCG Department of Social Development to name a few.

The MACC was operational 24/7 with morning and afternoon briefing sessions taking place for all role-players to discuss their plans of action. The last successful rescue was that of 32-year-old living miracle, Gabriel Guambe who was retrieved on 11 May 2024. Gumba was trapped under the rubble for 118 hours. His miracle rescue created tears in the eyes as soon as it became public knowledge. This successful rescue created new hope for all families and residents who waited anxiously for more rescues to occur.

While not all stories ended in success, the collective resilience and solidarity of the community was evident throughout the ordeal. In total, and as per the last media statement issued by the MACC on Friday, 17 May 2024, of the sixty-two workers (62) who were affected by the collapse, twenty-nine (34) were rescued, however to date six patients afterwards unfortunately passed away in hospital. No one could have known that the Garden Route would be faced with such a tremendous nightmare, but to witness the people of George and Garden Route coming together to pray and provide support in this incident that created a tremendous cloud of adversity over the town, one can only take from it a lifetime of memories created by the incident.

The dedicated rescue services and support provided by the golden hearts through their good deeds to those involved in the rescue mission, are just a few to be mentioned. Monde Stratu, Municipal Manager of GRDM, visited the site on a daily basis to get to terms and understand the intensity of the incident and rescue mission. Stratu expressed his gratitude to every single official, person, and organisation, the whole of South Africa, who worked non-stop, on and off the site and to every single media representative, photographer and communicator who kept the whole of South Africa informed regarding the progress of the rescue operations.

Stratu furthermore thanked all government organisations, municipalities and the private sector who prioritised their past two weeks in the best interest of the workers and their families affected by the incident. In offering condolences to those who lost loved ones, Stratu emphasised that the whole Garden Route grieves alongside them. “He said: “As you mourn the loss of your mother, father, son, daughter or sibling, remember the entire Garden Route mourns with you. May their departed souls rest in peace.”

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