Tragedy struck Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal on Christmas Eve as heavy rains caused severe flooding, resulting in the loss of six lives and leaving ten people missing.
The floods were caused by the Bellspruit River bursting its banks, causing water to overflow onto the N11 road near the Limit Hill robots in Ladysmith town. The resulting damage to infrastructure was extensive, with several vehicles being swept away.
The KwaZulu-Natal department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) has been coordinating search and rescue efforts to locate the missing individuals.
Despite the challenging circumstances, search and rescue teams worked tirelessly on Christmas day, and their efforts will resume on Tuesday.
During the initial search and rescue operation, one family member was found dead, while two others remain missing. Additionally, three vehicles travelling on the N11 were swept away.
Tragically, three passengers in a double cab were found dead inside the vehicle, and six others are still unaccounted for. In another vehicle, one passenger was discovered deceased, and another person remains missing. A light bakkie carrying two individuals was also swept away, with one person found dead and the other still missing.
The Cogta, in collaboration with SAPS K9, Al-Imdaad Foundation Disaster Response, and IPSS Medical Rescue, has been providing disaster relief to those affected by the floods. This assistance includes hygiene packs, mattresses, and blankets to meet the immediate needs of the affected individuals.
Ladysmith, due to its location in a floodplain, has a history of vulnerability to flooding. The municipality has experienced flash floods in the past, often caused by thunderstorms or slow-moving cut-off flows.
Unfortunately, Ladysmith and other areas of KwaZulu-Natal are expected to continue experiencing thunderstorms, as indicated by the Level 2 alert issued by the South African Weather Service.
Efforts to mitigate the impact of future floods in Ladysmith and other flood-prone areas are crucial. The municipality should consider implementing measures such as improved drainage systems, early warning systems, and community education on disaster preparedness.
By investing in these initiatives, Ladysmith can work towards minimizing the devastating consequences of future flooding events.
It is essential for residents and visitors in Ladysmith and other flood-prone areas to stay vigilant and heed any warnings or alerts issued by the relevant authorities. Following safety guidelines and evacuation procedures can significantly reduce the risk to individuals and their communities.
As the search and rescue operations continue, our thoughts and condolences go out to the families and loved ones of those affected by this tragic event. The resilience and solidarity of the community will be crucial in the recovery and rebuilding process. Together, we can overcome this challenging time and work towards a safer and more secure future for Ladysmith and its residents.