Hilton family escapes Kruger flood ordeal

2013-01-22 00:00

A HILTON couple were among several families who were evacuated in a late-night dash for safety from Shingwedzi camp in the Kruger National Park late on Sunday night.

Martin and Hayley Brandow drove in a convoy of 20 cars over the flooded Letaba bridge on the Shingwedzi River, with the water lapping up to the level of their VW Transporter’s lights.

The couple, who own Softlight Media in Hilton, had planned their trip six months ago.

They wanted to camp at Satara in the middle of the park and then drive north, said Hayley Brandow. But their plans were thrown out when it started to pour on Thursday.

The Brandows were camping in a tent until they were advised to move into a chalet because of the flooding.

“We were in the chalet for three hours,” said Brandow, and the flood waters rose quickly.

“My husband was asleep while I was watching 101 Dalmatians on a portable DVD player with my son Aiden [3] when game rangers came to knock on the door to tell us that we had to be evacuated,” said Brandow.

The game rangers told the couple and other campers at the campsite to congregate at the Shingwedzi shop to be briefed on the evacuation procedure.

“There were 20 of us in the convoy. It was like monsoon rain.

“We had a little Fiat Punto in front of us. We were surprised it made it as we were travelling in a VW Transporter. And that’s a higher vehicle, and the water was just covering the car lights.

“The whole ordeal was hair-raising. It was such an expanse of sheets of water. We couldn’t see outside. Now there are a lot of logs and reeds blocking the bridges and the landlines are down.”

“We’re going to have to return to the campsite at some time to see what we’ve left behind, because we had to pack our valuables in such a hurry.

“I just packed our clothes, cameras, laptops and Aiden’s teddy bear.”

Martin Brandow posted a message on Facebook: “We are safe and on higher ground … Thanks to the ranger who made the call to evacuate.”

If weather permits, the family plans to return to camp in their tents at Shingwedzi and “roughing it”, he said.

South African National Parks (SANparks) spokesperson Reynold Thakhuli said the heavy rains at the weekend had closed most roads in the park.

“As it stands, the Kruger National Park is pushing for people to move their booking dates or to offer them refunds,” said Thakhuli.

More information is available at the SANparks website or the 24-hour hotline 013 735 4325.

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