Mpumalanga flood alert: Courageous firefighter swept away during flood

MBOMBELA – A firefighter of Thembisile Hani drowned today while attempting to save the life of a passenger trapped in a taxi on a flooded low-water bridge close to Kwaggafontein in northern Mpumalanga.

Both the firefighter and the passenger went under when the force of the raging water toppled the taxi onto its side and swept it downstream.

Just before this tragic incident the firefighter rescued the driver from the taxi and carried him to the riverbank. He went back to save the passenger while onlookers screamed with fear from the banks of the river.

The bodies of the passenger, a woman, and the firefighter were recovered downstream just before 16:00 this afternoon. Heavy rain hindered the recovery operation.

This tragedy was confirmed by  Mr Jacques Benade from the Provincial Fire Coordination Unit.

“Our firefighter from Thembisile Hani lost his life after rescuing the driver in returning to rescue the passenger. We mourn this loss and honour him for this selfless act of duty and dedication, ” said Benade.

He expressed his heartfelt condolences to the family of the firefighter. “He paid the ultimate price in his rescue attempt this morning. We mourn his loss.”

He warned that all search-and-rescue disciplines were still on high flood alert and that the public should also heed this call to take extra care.

A warning was issued by the South African Weather Service last night at 11:00 that heavy rain leading to localised and flash flooding is expected in places over Mpumalanga.

The team from Ehlanzeni Disaster Management Centre foresees that the erratic weather of the past week will be even worse next week.

“With the weather being so unpredictable for two or three weeks, we also expect that the Kruger National Park will be hit by flooding. They are on amber alert today. The Sabie River is rising but occupancy is down with the holidays ending,” a spokesman of the centre explained.

Lower Sabie

Lower Sabie

Mr William Mabasa, acting head of communication of SANParks, said that the southern area of the park has received a lot of good rain since last night, so much “that there is water all over the place”.

“In order to ensure that visitors are safe during their stay in the park, we have closed all the gravel roads south of the Sabie River until further notice. We would also want to inform our visitors that the road from Skukuza to Malelane and Pretoriuskop is closed at the Delaport Bridge. Access roads between Skukuza and Lower Sabie are also closed for now until the Sabie River subsides,” explained Mabasa.

Skukuza - yesterday and today Photograph: Karen le Roux

Skukuza – yesterday and today Photograph: Karen le Roux

Disaster Management asked the public to stick to a golden rule in times of possible flooding: “If you can’t see the road, don’t drive or walk on it as this will endanger your life.”

Weather update to follow.




Elize Parker
Environmental Journalist Lowvelder

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