On Friday, families anxiously looking for their loved ones began attending the Diepkloof Forensic Mortuary in Soweto.
The bodies of the more than 70 victims of the Marshalltown building fire were carried to the government mortuary.
More than 60 of the victims were charred beyond recognition.
Authorities say at least 29 families have come forward to try to find relatives who may have been ensnared in the tragic flames that devoured the Usindiso Building early Thursday morning.
Mary Kananji, who was seeking for her sister Hawa Majawa, was among the first relatives to the mortuary on Friday, but she said the 23-year-old did not appear to be among the bodies that she was asked to identify.
“We couldn’t see her face, and we were looking everywhere. We came back here but police were chasing us [away] saying we can’t enter this house,” Kananji said as she gazed at the cordoned building.
Her head draped in a yellow hijab with her baby on her back, Kananji said she felt helpless.
She said that all she could do was wait on Albert Street with other families, believing that her sister was still trapped inside the building.
“I think that maybe she’s burned there inside. By the time we were coming, the fire already covered everywhere. People failed to go upstairs because others closed the doors and others fainted. So many people are dead there.”
Kananji stated that she had received calls from relatives in Malawi urging her to retrieve her sister’s remains so that they may give her a proper funeral in accordance with Islamic burial practises.
“They called crying and saying we must find out if she is alive. If she isn’t, we must have the ceremony of a funeral. When we came back from the mortuary, they were calling us to ask if we could identify her. But we couldn’t, which means she burnt inside the house.”
Majawa has three children living in Malawi.
Hibla Adam stated that he was at work in Mayfair when he learnt of the terrible fire at the building where his wife, Samiya Jaba, had only been residing for three weeks.
Adam stated that his wife had relocated to Marshalltown in search of work and was sharing a room with five other people.
The partitioned apartments were described by emergency officials as a “informal settlement” with over 80 “shacks” in the basement.
“I’m here now and I am looking for my wife. I don’t where to look but I am checking everywhere.”
Adam stated that he had not visited any of the displaced victims’ shelters, as well as the Diepkloof mortuary or any of the hospitals.
A woman who identified herself as a sex worker from Zambia, living and working in Johannesburg CBD, said she wanted to go back inside the building to find her child.
Of the 76 fatalities, 12 were children, the youngest just over a year old.
Visibly inebriated, and with her eyes swollen and bloodshot from crying, the woman described a life of rampant crime and drug abuse within the hijacked building.
She refused to give details about her missing child.
“I want to go and check my baby. I am fighting very much because I want to go inside.
“To tell the truth even now, everyone is mourning but the brothers used to be thieves. They used to stab with knives.”
She said she believed the gruesome deaths were a curse against those who lived a life of crime.
Full Story Source: “We Couldn’t See Her Face”