Massive downpour causes havoc in the East London area, five women missing

Heavy rainfall flooded various parts of the Eastern Cape at the weekend. Photo: NSRI

Heavy rainfall flooded various parts of the Eastern Cape at the weekend. Photo: NSRI

Published Jun 3, 2024


The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) had its hands full this weekend as adverse weather conditions saw a number of incidents reported at the weekend in the Eastern Cape.

On Sunday, June 2, in East London a sailing yacht sunk on the Buffalo River, a passenger barge was saved from sinking and was towed safely to moorings at just after 12pm.

NSRI spokesperson, Craig Lambinon said NSRI East London, the South African Police Services (SAPS), the police Dive Unit, police K9 Search and Rescue, Priority Care ambulance services, Buffalo City Municipality Traffic Services and emergency services responded to 10 flood-related incidents at various locations around East London.

“NSRI duty controllers, police, the emergency services, BCM and Disaster Risk Management manned a Joint Operations Command (JOC) at NSRI East London station 7 rescue base.

“A Volunteer Operations Centre (VOC) was established at The City Hall by BCM authorities.

“At various locations around East London, persons (families) were assisted from flood-related entrapments at residences, buildings, vehicles, and at flooded areas in 10 search and rescue operations,” Lambinon said.

A member of the public used his 4x4 vehicle to assist to pull a vehicle free from the river.

At one scene, six people, four adults, including an 80-year-old person and two children, were rescued from their flooded home. Unfortunately, two dogs drowned.

“In the Port of East London dense hyacinth may have contributed to capturing the extensive waste, flooding of plastic waste and debris that has flowed down the river, that has caused the Port to be barely navigational to vessels due to the extensive debris and waste. All services remain on high alert to respond to emergencies,” Lambinon said.

In Kariega, six people were trapped in their vehicle on the Brak River in Rocklands around 3pm on Saturday. It is believed the vehicle was swept off the bridge and into the river.

The occupants were unable to raise the alarm in the remote are and remained in the car, going unnoticed for hours until after midnight when flood conditions increased, forcing them to attempt to escape the vehicle.

“NSRI believe that they forced the back window of the vehicle open and, while attempting to climb onto the roof of the vehicle, the mother was swept away and the dad was swept to an island that had formed in the middle of the river - there he was able to clamber to safety.

“NSRI Gqeberha, NSRI Jeffreys Bay and NSRI Oyster Bay reached them after a SMHART security officer had spotted the four family members huddling on the roof of the car just after 3am on Sunday and contacted the JOC at the Church Street police station that was being manned by NSRI duty controllers, assisted by NSRI EOC in Cape Town,” Lambinon said.

At the scene, a technical rope and pulley system and a floating canoe as well as NSRI rescue swimmers reached the family where all four were brought across the flooded river to safety.

The father, who was on the island, was rescued using the same method.

“They were rewarmed, they were suffering hypothermia, in NSRI rescue vehicles with heaters on full, hydrated, and then transported to a mustering area in Kariega where they are recovering.

An extensive search was continued, by NSRI and Coastal Water Rescue, into daylight, for the mom who sadly remains missing. Our thoughts are with this family and everyone affected and displaced by the tragic sudden flooding,” Lambinon said.

A further four women are also being sought and police continue to search, while a man and a baby girl died at various scenes in Kariega.

So far, at least 70 people have been safely removed to various mustering points in 55 rescue operations.

[email protected]