At 04h30 (Sunday, 21st October) NSRI Port Elizabeth volunteer sea rescue duty crew, who have remained on high alert to assist with flooding during the heavy rains, were activated at the request of Disaster Management following reports of a Christian group, SAMCA, upstream of the Swartkops River cut off from mainland by rising waters on the Swartkops River.
The NSRI volunteer sea rescue duty crew dispatched a forward team to investigate while posting an alert to all NSRI Port Elizabeth volunteers to respond to our sea rescue base to prepare for a possible mass evacuation.
On arrival at the scene, the team reported rising waters over the narrow weir leading to where the Christian group were holding fellowship and the NSRI sea rescue quad bike and 4×4 rescue vehicles were dispatched.
“A total of 76 people and 1 dog, the youngest member being 18 years old, and people from all over the region, a large group from the Nelson Mandela University, people from Jeffreys Bay, Port Alfred, Port Elizabeth, and other areas of the Eastern Cape, that had gathered for the fellowship, were found at the gathering and as the water levels rose most of the roadway was washed away making a rescue effort by vehicle impossible” said Craig Lambison from NSRI.
“Our NSRI volunteers found an area that although barely accessible was at the time the only access and egress route from where the fellowship was being held and our NSRI rescuers, using fallen trees and tree trunks as anchor points, rigged a rope line, making hand rails along the line, and 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.
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”, added Lambinson.
The Metro Disaster Management team dispatched two busses to transport the group into town where they have gathered at a central rendezvous point.