Sun Oct 23 08:21:51 SAST 2016

Relatives have difficulty identifying burnt miners

By unknown | Oct 12, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Penwell Dlamini

Penwell Dlamini

Cold rage rather than grief tore Siyabulela Tenge apart when he saw his brother lying on a slab in a Free State mortuary on Wednesday.

Tenge is one of about 100 people who had converged on the Welkom Pathology Services building to identify their loved ones.

They came from as far afield as Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Lesotho.

Huddled in small groups, their sombre mood underscored the tragedy that had brought them there.

In hushed tones, relatives discussed their collective loss; the pain that lay ahead: identifying their dead next-of-kin.

Tenge was an angry man.

His brother, Thobela Booi, was one of 25 illegal miners whose bodies were found at a disused St Helena Mine shaft in Welkom after a fire broke out underground.

"I do not understand how my brother got into illegal mining. I just need an answer for that," said Tenge.

"My brother disappeared from G Hostel in Thabong two weeks before the fire incident and there were rumours that he was one of the people who had died," he said.

"He was just bones when we saw him and the sight was unbearable," said Tenge, emerging from the mortuary.

Booi was unemployed and is survived by his wife and a five-year-old son, who both live at Cofimvaba in Eastern Cape.

Was it desperation that drove him to be an illegal gold dust miner?

The situation was difficult for relatives as the stench of decomposed bodies filled the mortuary in Welkom, forcing others to leave the facility gasping for fresh air while staff tried to fend off the putrid smell with air fresheners.

Things were made worse by a power failure, delaying the process by two hours.

Most people said it was difficult to identify the bodies as they were in an advanced state of decomposition, with some infested by worms.

"I wish the government can help in finding answers to this," said Tenge, who works at Harmony Gold in Welkom.

Phillip Mkhize, from Lesotho, had been in the country for three days, but none of the bodies belonged to his brother, Cosmos.

"They all looked dark and decomposed, so it was difficult for me to identify any of them," said the worried Mkhize.

l The identification process will continue until next week, according to mortuary manager Jeanne du Toit.


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