Tongaat rescue operation called off

2013-11-20 11:12

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The labour department has taken control of a collapsed mall construction site in Tongaat, north of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo has said.

He said today heavy machinery would be brought in to remove rubble from the site following the collapse yesterday afternoon.

Emergency workers would remain on standby at the scene once the labour department’s efforts started at the site.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said the search and rescue operation had been called off so that the labour department could move some of the rubble with heavy machinery.

He said one woman was confirmed dead on the scene and 29 were hospitalised with various injuries.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Mandy Govender said three people were unaccounted for, but it was possible that more people were trapped in the debris.

Labour department spokesperson Page Boikanyo said in a statement a delegation led by acting director-general Sam Morotoba would visit the scene today.

The department’s deputy director-general of inspection and enforcement services, Thobile Lamati, and Compensation Fund commissioner Shadrack Mkhonto would also visit the scene.

Earlier, eThekwini deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala said construction at the mall should not have been taking place.

“We took them [the contractors] to court a month ago. We thought they had stopped,” she said.

The municipality had approached the court because the contractors had not “followed processes”.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Senzo Mkhize said construction companies flouting building regulations should be blacklisted.

“The ANC is appalled that this tragedy happened barely a month after the eThekwini municipality had ordered the construction to stop,” he said.

“Had the company complied, surely this disaster could have been averted.”

He extended the party’s condolences to the family of the woman who was killed and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

Mkhize also commended the emergency workers for their efforts.

Police cordoned off the site this morning and small groups of people watched the operations from a distance.

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