‘The current was hectic’: Homes flooded in the Vaal, emergency services rescue those trapped

An Oryx helicopter airlifted an elderly couple to safety after flooding in the Loch Vaal area at the weekend.
Image: Netcare911

Flooding at Loch Vaal in Vanderbijlpark at the weekend resulted in dramatic scenes with families having to evacuate and an access road becoming impassable.

Localised flooding had occurred after heavy rains over recent days, with a report of 80mm falling in an hour late last week.

The police Waterwing and K9 units as well as rescue services resulted in six people being rescued from the Rietspruit dam area after becoming trapped in their homes.

A SA Air Force Oryx helicopter was also activated to hoist an elderly couple to dry land on Saturday morning, said Netcare 911. This was after emergency workers were unable to successfully move them after they had been stranded at their home.

Loch Vaal resident Jessica Moreira said debris in the water had made it difficult to assist flood victims in the area.

“It was hectic – beehive boxes and whole trees floating down,” Moreira said, adding that water levels had since stabilised thanks to open sluice gates at the Vaal River Barrage reservoir.

“We are a very close community we always try and help each out. Everyone was out helping trying to help. But the current was so hectic and the debris was so bad. There was a couple that had to be airlifted,” Moreira said.

She said the Vaal River was expected to rise beyond 100% in the near future as floodwaters continued to arrive.

“We are quite worried about that – that water has to come down via us,” Moreira said.

Jake Manten, Vaal Dam National Sea Rescue Institute station commander, said NSRI officials on Saturday assisted police rescue stranded residents.

“At 08h30, Saturday, 16 January, NSRI Vaal Dam duty crew were activated following a call by EMS made to NSI Gauteng requesting assistance at the Riet River, on Loch Vaal, Vanderbijlpark, 30 kilometers from the NSRI Vaal Dam rescue station.

“Flash floods had stranded a family of 6 at their house. ER24 ambulance services, Netcare 911 ambulance services, Private Community Medical Services, the SA Police Services and a Police Search and Rescue squad were on the scene. Our NSRI rescue vehicle, carrying our NSRI Croc and towing our NSRI Discovery Rescue Runner, was dispatched.

“On arrival on the scene we were met by Police Search and Rescue who had already managed to safely rescue four of the six residents from the house by wading them through the swollen river.

“An elderly Gauteng couple remained stranded at a house by rising flood and the rapidly flowing flood waters.

“We launched our Discovery Rescue Runner, accompanied by Police divers, to attempt to rescue the couple from the house but submerged and semi submerged long farmland grass hampered efforts to reach them and the couple were unable to wade through the barely accessible flooded terrain.

“The SA Air Force (SAAF) was requested to assist and a SAAF Oryx helicopter airlifted the couple to safety.”

The rescue operation was completed at 1.40pm.

“Our NSRI Vaal Dam crew remain on alert to assist wherever necessary and the situation is being closely monitored by the rescue authorities,” Manten said.

“NSRI are appealing to communities along the Vaal rivers and dams to be vigilant for flash floods during the heavy rainfalls being experienced as water levels continue to rise from heavy rainfall in the area,” he said.