Family desperate for help after 10 relatives swept down river during KZN floods

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  • Ten family members were swept down a river during the heavy rains in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday.
  • The bodies of four of the victims were discovered in the uMzinyathi River on Wednesday morning.
  • The other six are still missing, and their relatives say they have received no assistance.

The grief-stricken Mdlalose family has been battling to retrieve the bodies of their relatives that were swept down a river during heavy rains that caused their house to collapse in uMzinyathi, Inanda, in KwaZulu-Natal.

They said they had received no assistance from the authorities since the incident happened on Tuesday.

A heartbroken Amanda Acheampong told News 24 her family had decided to send nine relatives to help search for their missing loved ones.

Acheampong said houses in the area were built almost "on top of each other", with their neighbours literally living on top of her family's home.

"The neighbours' house collapsed first, which then resulted in our family home collapsing and washing everyone into the river. Four bodies were discovered along the riverbank – my sister and her three grandkids. It's horrible! We're still looking for the remaining six. We are hopeful they might still be alive, but at this stage it doesn't look good," she said.

Acheampong said her older sister and her late sister's daughter had the gruesome task of identifying the bodies of their deceased family members.

"My niece had to view her mom's body. That's devastating. These floods have caused havoc among our people. The lack of assistance and compassion from local government and officials have been exceptionally devastating," she added.

Rolling coverage | KwaZulu-Natal deluge easing but flood emergency lingers

Acheampong said the bodies of her four deceased relatives were still at the mortuary and the family had no idea when the funeral arrangements would be made.

"We were hoping to recover the other six remaining bodies by now already, but that hasn't happened. The plan was that we would bury everyone together since they all stayed in the same house when it collapsed," said Acheampong.

They were supposed to get together for a family gathering over the Easter weekend. She said the plans were set in stone when they were last together over the Christmas period.

According to Acheampong, her last memory of being with her entire family is of them all dancing, singing and enjoying being together after the end of the Covid-19 hard lockdown.

"Just when we thought things were coming together, the restrictions were taken away and people could start gathering again. Now we are faced with this difficult period," she added.

KZN
A collage of some of the Mdlalose family members who were swept away in the KwaZulu-Natal floods.

Acheampong said that rescue services and police had told the family not to take rescue operations into their own hands as it could be dangerous.

"But they haven't even bothered to go to the area where we think the bodies are laying under walls that collapsed. Some officials just looked out of the car window at what's happening and drove on. What is that? There are so many bodies scattered across riverbanks. Why are they not trying to assist us?" she added.

When asked if food and shelter were provided to affected families, she said nothing had been provided as yet.

She added:

We haven't gotten any calls from officials. All 10 of my family members were washed away. This is not some overnight flood. This is massive! People have died because of the gush of water pouring down. How is government taking this so chilled? We are crying out for assistance in finding our family members' bodies, and bringing them all back home together.

Acheampong said due to the demands of her job, she had to return to her home in Johannesburg, but would be going back down to KwaZulu-Natal as soon as she was able to.

Meanwhile, the Gift of the Givers Search and Recovery team said they were partnering with the KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape Disaster Management teams to speed up the search and recovery process.

"Distraught family members have appealed desperately for assistance to locate loved ones washed away or entrapped. Recovering the deceased for a dignified burial is an essential element for closure," said Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman.

Gift of the Givers said it would provide helicopter accessibility, specialised equipment and funding for search and recovery operations.



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