NSRI Port Elizabeth volunteers, who have remained on high alert to assist with flooding during the heavy rains, were activated in the early hours of the morning, at the request of Disaster Management, following reports of a Christian group, SAMCA, upstream of the Swartkops River being cut off from mainland by rising waters on the Swartkops River.
Daniel Heimann, NSRI Port Elizabeth Coxswain, said the NSRI duty crew dispatched a forward team to investigate while posting an alert to all NSRI Port Elizabeth volunteers to respond and to prepare for a possible mass evacuation.
“On arrival on-scene our forward team reported rising waters over the narrow weir leading to where the Christian group were holding fellowship and our sea rescue quad bike and 4×4 rescue vehicles were dispatched,” said Heimann.
Heimann said a large group from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, people from Jeffreys Bay, Port Alfred, Port Elizabeth, and other areas of the Eastern Cape had gathered for the fellowship. The heavy rains had then caused the the water levels to rise and most of the roadway in the area was washed away, making a rescue effort by vehicle impossible.
“Our NSRI volunteers found an area that, although barely accessible, was at the time the only escape route from where the fellowship was being held and using fallen trees and tree trunks as anchor points, rigged a rope line, making hand rails along the line. Where flood areas were too deep or too turbulent NSRI rescuers were posted along the rope line to guide and aide the group across the river,” said Heimann.
“Prior to the rescue operation commencing a safety briefing was held with the fellowship group and each person was allowed to take only one piece of luggage with them.”
“Once the group had, one by one, commenced crossing the river, our NSRI volunteers aided the elderly and assisted where necessary to get everyone, and the dog, safely across the river,” he said.
Heimann said in total 76 people and a dog had been rescued.
Disaster Management dispatched two busses to then transport the group into town, where they have gathered at a central rendezvous point. No one was injured in the incident.