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Tragic Fire in Johannesburg CBD: Families Identify Victims

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

In a heart-rending incident on Thursday in the Johannesburg Central Business District, a massive fire tragically claimed the lives of 74 people, including children. The Usiindiso Building, a towering structure in Marshalltown, was gutted in the early morning hours, causing unimaginable pain to dozens of families across the country.

Among those coming to grips with the catastrophic event was Elisha Phafoli, who along with another sister, travelled roughly 400 kilometres from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg. Their quest was fuelled by a suspicious phone call with his younger sister, Tlalane Buthelezi. Their journey culminated in despair at the Diepkloof Forensic Pathology Services (FPS), where they learned of the deaths of Buthelezi and her young daughter. Identification was through DNA testing as their remains, like numerous others, were charred beyond recognition.

While Phafoli and his family now face the agonising wait for DNA test results to confirm their fears, another family's dread became a reality. The parents of 16-year-old Melita managed to escape the roaring fire by jumping out of the fourth floor, with the assumption that she was right behind them - she wasn't. The frail mother identified her deceased daughter from photographs on a laptop, as families were restricted from viewing the bodies due to their tragic conditions.

Thembalethu Mpahlaza, Acting CEO for Gauteng's forensic pathology services, hopes for results no later than next week if lab processes proceed swiftly. Furthermore, Gauteng health spokesperson Motaletale Modiba detailed the bleak procedure for bodies that remain unidentified for legally allowed periods - an application for a pauper's burial managed by the city department.

This heart-rending ordeal has been a stark reminder of the vulnerability of hijacked buildings like Usiindiso, raising serious questions about public safety measures and concerns.

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