Man clings five hours to tree in raging flood

2012-01-20 00:00

A 24-YEAR-OLD Mozambican man clung to a tree in the raging Komati river for more than five hours before a rescue helicopter could reach him.

Mandla Malati lives in the Phiva trust near Komatipoort. He was trapped when he attempted to cross the Komati river on a raft. Currents churned up by the raging torrent tipped his raft over and dragged him under.

The river dragged him over a tree, the top branches of which just poked out of the water. He managed to grab onto the branches and then clung for his life. A police helicopter, piloted by Colonel Henk Goedhart, was summoned from Nelspruit to save him.

Warrant Officers Danie Theron of the SAPS rescue unit in the Lowveld was lowered onto Malati to pluck him out of the water.

Three people — a woman and two children — have so far drowned in the floods.

In Lydenburg the Dorpsriver burst its banks to flood homes and temporarily cut off the town from access roads.

Speaking to The Witness from Skukuza at the Kruger Park yesterday, trainee teacher at the Skukuza Primary School Chantal Gillespie said the water levels had receded by late yesterday.

She said the golf course was a sad sight, strewn with dead fish left behind as the flood waters subsided while hippos were standing in the shallow waters left over in Lake Panic after it burst its banks on Wednesday afternoon.

Gillespie said one good thing about the flood was that the rivers had been cleared of debris which meant that heavy rain in the near future would pass through the river system more easily. She said while the flood had been an adventure of sorts, for many caught up in its drama, it was extremely nerve-wracking at times, “especially in the dark”.

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