Families Identify Church Collapse Victims in Anguish

Tears and anguish characterized the atmosphere as the grieving families of 13 worshipers killed in a church collapse arrived at the Richards Bay mortuary to identify the bodies of their loved ones.

The worshipers died when a wall collapsed at the Pentecostal Holiness Church near Empangeni in northern KwaZulu-Natal last Thursday night.

The KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department co-ordinated with various departments including health, home affairs and the police, to assist in speeding up the body identification process.

Six worshippers were from Ulundi, four from eSikhawini and three from Maqwakazi in uMlalazi.

Describing the collapse, Phumelele Simelane from eSikhawini said worshippers had just had their evening meal and were preparing to sleep when the wall caved in.

Simelane was with her 6-year-old son, who is recovering in hospital. She said she came to the mortuary to support congregants whose relatives died.

The Mthembu family, who lost grandmother Thembi Mthabela, 54, and Andiswa Mthembu, 10, in the tragedy were overcome with grief.

“Thembi loved going to church and she always took Andiswa with her. Andiswa was doing Grade 3 at Nyathini Primary School. As a family, we are very traumatised and it is hard for us,” said a relative, who did not wanted to be named.

Buhle Mzila, whose sister Samke, 33, died, said the family had lost a breadwinner.

Samke, who worked at the Ulundi Municipality, was with her 9-year-old daughter during the incident.

Buhle said her niece, who was in hospital, was in a state of shock about her mother’s death.

“Samke loved the church, she always made sure she attended every service. She played a big role in terms of assisting the family. We are still going to feel her absence,” said Buhle.

A sobbing Mbongeni Langa said his mother had died in a “place she loved”.

The memorial service will be held tomorrow