A day I’ll never forget – January 18th, 2012.

Hoedspruit, South Africa.

I awoke to the sound of torrential rain. Another wet day. We had already had rain continuously for a day and a half and everything was getting muddy and damp.  I had recently started a small mornings-only job to assist a friends business so I had to get up and cracking and into town by 7am.

I am not a great morning person so when I had to get to my car I only half noticed that I was up to my ankles in water.  Hurry hurry – let’s go.

As I got to the main road, I realised that there was quite a bit of water laying everywhere and it was still coming down hard.  I was following another driver who kept on putting their hazard lights on when they rode through water puddles – I looked around again and could not believe how wet my world looked. I took a few photos.

On my way to town I cross about 5 rivers/ dry river beds – by the time I was 4 km’s outside of Hoedspruit the smaller rivers were starting to flow across the road. I reached the Zandspruit (Sand River) and many cars were backed up and people were getting out of their vehicles.  I stopped and asked if there was an accident and a man told me that the river was flowing across the road and it was too deep and strong to cross.

I then realised that if I did not hot-tail it back home – I would be caught on the road between two rivers , unable to go anywhere, so I turned my car around and headed home as fast as I could.  By the time I crossed the Blyde river near my turn-off it was about 1 meter below the bridge (normally about 5-6 meters below).

At this stage I should have given up and not tried to go any further because our 10km sand road runs alongside this river for about 4 km’s before it veers off towards the small farming area where I live, however, I carried on – I try to reason with myself and ask myself why I did not stop then and I can’t answer.

My trip from hell began.  Water was rushing from the bush and farmlands across the road and into the river alongside the sand road, digging great big gashes in the road.  I wanted to stop but I could not because I would never have got back to safety, so I clenched my teeth, loosened my safety belt and opened my window in case I needed to escape from my car in a hurry and just had to keep going.  Those 4 km’s felt like 10 km’s. My car kept getting washed and pushed sideways by the strong currents crossing the road, and just when I thought I would wash off the road my wheels gripped again and I got out of the stream, only to have to cross another and slide again.  How I got through I will never know but I believe I was the last vehicle on that road before the entire road washed away as the river rose to meet the water pouring from the farms.

Our small community at the end of the sand road was isolated from the main road and town for 4 days.  Our electricity failed by 8 am and was only restored 4 days later and then only intermittently.  Our tap water turned orange/red and became unpalatable and remains that way.  Tonight (23 Jan) I got my internet connectivity back.

My only source of information came via my mobile phone where I could access Facebook and hear how everyone else was doing. Luckily one of the empty homes on our reserve had solar power and a gas freezer so I made use of their facilities to charge my phone and keep my food frozen as best I could. Many folk had no communication once their phone batteries emptied.

My friends and their families in town were also isolated from the surrounding areas because almost every bridge over a river or dry stream was washed away. Homes situated near rivers and dry river beds were washed away. A lady on the farm next door whose house was near the river had to be airlifted to safety as were 150 other people from the areas surrounding Hoedspruit.  Her car was washed onto our farm. Many, many people have lost everything they own.

Here are a few pictures

Photo by Annelise Smit – This is the river that was 1 meter below the bridge when I crossed it.

Photo by Andre Weideman – Paddle-skiing down the R40 (normally a road)

This is the river that runs along the border of my farm (Blyde river) – crossing the road instead of going under the bridge.

Photo taken and the closest store to my home. That’s the end of that wall….

Roads have been devoured….

many homes damaged…..

Photo by Freek Stoop. My local petrol (gas) station

The community here has stood together amazingly.  Instead of waiting for aide – our farmers and a few local companies got together and repaired roads and bridges.  Farmers from Tzaneen have sent us truck loads of drinking water.  Everyone has tried to do their bit to help those in need. Our local newspaper, Kruger2Canyon kept us all up to date via Facebook so we could follow what was happening although almost everyone in our entire area was stranded. They squashed rumours of the dam wall cracking and kept us all sane. I am so thankful to them.

While we were all isolated from town, one of my colleagues, Kleintjie Viljoen, took this video of what was happening in Hoedspruit itself.  He apologises for the running commentary.

I have tried to credit people for their photographs but some were passed around Facebook so many times that I was unsure of who took them. My apologies if I have made any errors.

Our beautiful small town is now in an awful state of disrepair and many people have lost all they owned.  Poorer communities were struck really badly and many of these people have no homes, food, drinking water, or clothes.

Here are details for those of you who wish to make a contribution to assist those who have nothing left.

Ref : Flood Disaster Relief
HOEDSPRUIT TRAINING TRUST
ABSA Bank
Acc No: 4055 05 1951
Branch: 632005
ABSA SWIFT Code ABSAZAJJ

22 thoughts on “A day I’ll never forget – January 18th, 2012.

  1. I’m glad you made it home safely, Jackie. I’ve had dreams about rivers flooding and having to drive the maze of passable places, or not. I hope you’re able to get things put back together and cleaned up soon.
    Julie

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  2. Water – the scariest thing when you have no control over it. I have made a contribution to the fund in the hope that someone will benefit from it.

    I am happy to see that you are safe and presuming that your home was safe as well.

    Love to you.

    Jen and Manuel

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  3. Yesterday I heard the story of a friend of a friend, a local estate agent in Hoedspruit, who managed to save themselves and their 2 small children, but lost their home and all their possesions. I will definitely be making a donation to your trust fund.

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  4. You captured the fears so effectively. We have just bought property in the area and are living far away – I lived the fear with those we know in the town. What is totally amazing is how the community of Hoedspruit have banded together and helped, even when they have suffered badly. It makes me long to move into the area even more. I pray strength and gace as you recover from this disaster.

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