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Four people saved from overflowing Limpopo River in dramatic rescue operation

Four people saved from overflowing Limpopo River in dramatic rescue operation
A group of police divers, SANDF soldiers and the four rescued people rest in front of a police helipcopter at the conclusion of the rescue mission at the Limpopo River. (Photo:Supplied)

A group of four people were rescued near Musina after surviving on rainwater and fish. Authorities have warned members of the public to avoid rivers and flood-prone areas amid the National State of Disaster. 

Four people who were left stranded for five days in the middle of the overflowing Limpopo River outside Musina between South Africa and Zimbabwe were rescued by police divers and SANDF soldiers on Tuesday this week.  

Police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said the rescued group — two men and two women — were fishing when they were caught in heavy rains.

They managed to find refuge on two small islands in the middle of the river as water levels started to rise. Mojapelo said the incident took place next to Ha-Rangani village, within the Masisi policing area. 

Limpopo River

Footage from a police helicopter hovering above the overflowing Limpopo during the search. (Photo: Screengrab)

The four were spotted by SANDF soldiers patrolling the Beitbridge borderline who then alerted police. 

The four, who live in the villages of Malale and Madimbo, said they usually camp for days by the river to fish but were unaware that torrential rains were forecast. 

Close encounter

One of the survivors, 54-year-old Booi Munyai, said they were terrified seeing that the water level rising and slowly approaching them. He said the group survived on the small islands by drinking rainwater and consuming fish they had cooked earlier on. 

“I was relieved when I saw a police helicopter approaching us. The chopper landed on the two islands and picked us up to safer ground,” said Munyai. He added that he remains traumatised by the experience and it will take time for him to return to the river to continue fishing. 

Munyai was visibly weak when he stepped out from the chopper and quickly collapsed from exhaustion before being aided further by police and soldiers. (See video clip below of the helicopter drop-off of the rescued people.)

Brigadier Mojapelo said the four were taken to a local clinic for treatment before being discharged.

Police have called on members of the public to avoid rivers during the rainy season. 

A supplied video clip here shows the search from the air for the four stranded people.


State of Disaster

A National State of Disaster was declared by government on 13 February in response to flooding in parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape and North West provinces. In a statement, Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said, “These conditions have been brought on by the La Niña global weather phenomenon which occurs in the Pacific Ocean but impacts on a country like South Africa with above-normal rainfall.”

Read more in Daily Maverick:SA Weather Service issues alerts as government responds to flood chaos across the country

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu both issued statements last week urging people to be cautious and take heed of warnings and updates from the weather service. DM


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