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CABO DELGADO

Detailed: SA Air Force chopper’s dramatic rescue of man from raging Mozambique river

Detailed: SA Air Force chopper’s dramatic rescue of man from raging Mozambique river
A local man trapped on a rock in the middle of the raging Lurio River in Mozambique’s flooded Cabo Delgado province is photographed from an SAAF Oryx helicopter. (Screenshots: Supplied)

The man had been stuck there for about 24 hours and seemed to be moments away from being swept off his precarious foothold on a rock in the raging Lurio River.

A South African Air Force helicopter crew has dramatically plucked a civilian to safety from the middle of a swollen river in Mozambique’s flooded Cabo Delgado province.

The man had been stuck there for about 24 hours and seemed to be moments away from being swept off his precarious foothold on a rock in the raging Lurio River when SAAF Sergeant Raphiri was hoisted down from a hovering Oryx helicopter to lift him to safety last Friday. 

Cabo Delgado has been hit by Cyclone Freddy which has been devastating Mozambique, Malawi and Madagascar.

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The Oryx helicopter was piloted by Major JA Augustyn. The aircraft and its crew are deployed in Cabo Delgado province as part of the regional Samim — Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique, which has been trying to eliminate an Islamic State-affiliated insurgency there since July 2021.

saaf rescue mozambique

A local man was trapped on a rock (top and above) as he was trying to cross the raging Lurio River in Mozambique’s flooded Cabo Delgado province. (Image: Screenshot)

But their mission changed dramatically last Friday as Johann Smith, an independent security expert on Mozambique, told Daily Maverick. He said the Oryx crew were called out at 5.15pm on Friday after an Mi-17 helicopter of the Mozambique Defence Armed Forces was unable to reach the stranded man despite many attempts.

“RSA aviation responded from tasking to take-off within 20 minutes,” Smith said. “The aircrew was in a race against the clock to conduct the mission due to the availability of daylight and the dire circumstances of the member of the local community.

“The member was stuck for already 24 hours in the middle of this river that was in flood. The rescue took place 78km southwest of Pemba. Within 35 minutes the Oryx crew found the member. Under severe difficult circumstances, Sergeant Raphiri was hoisted down to rescue the trapped member.

“The rescue crew was challenged by the extremely strong river current and the fact the member was standing on a very small rock. The crew had to be extremely careful of the helicopter’s rotor downwash not causing the individual to lose balance on the rock.

SAAF flight engineer Sergeant Raphiri is hoisted down to pluck the man from a rock in the swollen Lurio River. (Image: Screenshot)

“After two attempts, Sergeant Raphiri managed to successfully rescue the member from the rock and he was hoisted to safety.”

Smith said an air medical team (Amet) led by Dr O Khan and Sergeant XC Thabethe took over once the rescued man was in the aircraft and provided him with the necessary medical care. He was flown to a Samim hospital for further medical treatment.

“Accolades must be given to the quick reaction from the aircrew and Amet and their professional conduct during this extremely difficult technical rescue,” Smith said. He added that Raphiri is a flight engineer on another SAAF helicopter, an Augusta, which is also deployed in Cabo Delgado, but volunteered for the rescue mission.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Cyclone Freddy’s deadly trail of destruction a grim reminder of the need to prioritise climate adaptation”

The Oryx co-pilot was Captain R Mothoa and Warrant Officer A Prince was the flight engineer during the rescue. Lieutenant D Mmtiseng was also part of the Amet team on the helicopter which treated the rescued man.

An SANDF media liaison officer confirmed the events. DM

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  • Alan Paterson says:

    Amidst all of the negativity and despair caused mostly by our odious politicians who posture and bluster on a daily basis the actions of Major Augustyn, Sergeant Raphiri and the Oryx crew must be lauded. True heroes who show us that there is indeed humanity to be found amongst ordinary South Africans. Of course that crew are certainly not ordinary.

  • Mpumi Bikitsha says:

    What a beautiful story to read for a change! We must never lose hope amidst this chaos of the worst kind that we’re in the whole world. Thank you SA crew!🙏🏽

  • Confucious Says says:

    Well done to the pilot and flight crew! This is a great story of real South African skill and bravery!

  • Wendy Annecke says:

    Thank you for describing the dramatic rescue and naming the brave and skilled people involved *****

  • Helen Swingler says:

    Amen to that. Sergeant Raphiri, you beaut. The pictures look terrifying. Well done to all.

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