Cape Town has been pegged as one the world’s most dangerous cities, with sky-high murder rates. This has resulted in the Salt River mortuary being filled to maximum capacity, and a new mortuary being built in Observatory.
Although the Observatory mortuary is not yet completed and will be double the size of the existing Salt River one, it has been reported that it will still be too small to deal with the influx of bodies marked to be stored there.
“Even though this is new and we are moving in, it’s already not big enough,” Professor Lorna Martin, head of the Forensic Pathology Service in the Western Cape, said to TimesLIVE during a media tour of the Observatory mortuary. “With the increase that we’ve now had lately, I don’t think we will cope.”
The recent surge in victims of shooting as a result of gang violence has also made it very difficult for medical examiners to conduct autopsies in good time, with the many bullet wounds in bodies nearly quadrupling the amount of time morgues spend on examining them.
State pathologists are struggling so much with the influx that they are now using shipping containers as a substitute for mortuary refrigerators.
Health authorities are required to keep unidentified bodies for no longer than 30 days, in Salt River they are sometimes kept for 10 651 days. In Tygerberg, bodies are kept for up to 9 536 days until the police can identify them.