Amid the flood, a neatly-made bed

2008-06-20 00:00

Despite being knee-deep in water and having lost everything, a 92- year-old woman insisted on making her bed.

“She knew that she was in danger, but insisted on making her bed so the room would be neat. It was heart-wrenching to see that,” said Netcare 911 paramedic Chris Botha, who was called in to help evacuate the elderly and frail residents of the flooded Poinsettia Park retirement village in Amanzimtoti on Tuesday night.

Another 93-year-old woman was not so lucky. Her body and that of an 80-year-old man were found yesterday in their home at Club Marina, Hibberdene, bringing the confirmed death toll in the south coast flooding to 12.

Botha told of drenched pensioners clutching photos and other precious belongings or desperately trying to put things in cupboards so that they didn’t wash away when they had left.

He carried an elderly woman through a flooded corridor to the main hall where the residents were housed during the storm. “Somehow she still managed to smile, which showed me how wonderful the human spirit can be. These people had lost everything, yet they still had hope,” he said.

However, by late yesterday afternoon hope was fading for those who were still believed missing as well as the many people in outlying areas not even reported missing.

Calls went out for residents with 4x4s to help reach remote areas and collections are under way to help the more than 1 000 people who sought refuge in community halls and places of safety.

Helicopters were trying to reach areas cut off when roads washed away.

Inspector Jack Haskins of the Pietermaritzburg K9 Search and Rescue Unit said local people in Umzinto are doing all they can to assist with the recovery of the body of an Indian tourist who died when a building was hit by a mudslide and a tree uprooted on Wednesday. Still working at 4 pm yesterday, Haskins said conditions were extremely hazardous as the building needed to be shored up.

For Victor Chetty of Port Shepstone Protection Services, who is co-ordinating rescue efforts, searching for five missing people was the main concern late yesterday. He said eight people from the Ugu district have been confirmed dead.

Ugu communications manager Brian Dube said the damage assessment is almost complete and that a report will be handed to the government next week.

He said homeless people are being housed at the Civic Centre in Port Shepstone and a community hall in Umdoni, where they have been given food, clothing, blankets and trauma counselling.

“All emergency services and volunteer organisations have been great during this disaster. There has been a phenomenal effort by everyone. People have really opened up their hearts to those who were displaced,” he said.

Chetty said many displaced people are starting to return home to salvage possessions and clean up, where possible.

Dube said Ugu council is trying to link displaced people with their extended families.

“Some people have gone to live with their families while others have returned home. The numbers at the halls are starting to decrease,” he said.

SPCA staff have had their hands full trying to rescue trapped animals.

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