South African Air Force Oryx performs difficult flood rescue in Mozambique
After a Mozambican military helicopter failed to rescue a stranded Mozambican from a flooded river, a South African Air Force (SAAF) Oryx crew managed to finally hoist the stranded man to safety in difficult and dangerous conditions. The rescue mission took place on the afternoon of Friday, 10 March 2023, the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) said. Due to heavy rains amid Tropical Storm Freddy, a local community member found himself trapped in the flooded Lurio River. Fellow citizens were unable to rescue him and so the Forcas Armadas de Defesa de Mocambique (FADM) was called to assist.
A FADM Mi-17 helicopter was despatched but after many attempts a successful rescue proved impossible. The SAMIM Aviation Component was then called on to assist and this request was approved by Force Commander Major General Xolani Mankayi.
Johann Smith, an independent security expert on Mozambique, said “RSA aviation responded from tasking to take-off within 20 minutes,” Smith said. “The aircrew was in a race against the clock to conduct the mission due to the availability of daylight and the dire circumstances of the member of the local community. The member was stuck for already 24 hours in the middle of this river that was in flood. The rescue took place 78km southwest of Pemba. Within 35 minutes the Oryx crew found the member.”
He added, “Under severe difficult circumstances, Sergeant Raphiri was hoisted down to rescue the trapped member. The rescue crew was challenged by the extremely strong river current and the fact the member was standing on a very small rock. The crew had to be extremely careful of the helicopter’s rotor downwash not causing the individual to lose balance on the rock. After two attempts, Sergeant Raphiri managed to successfully rescue the member from the rock and he was hoisted to safety.”
The flood victim had been trapped in the river for around 24 hours and was suffering from hypothermia. An Air Medical Team (AMET) comprising Dr O Khan, Lieuteant DC Mmitseng and Sergeant XC Thabethe took over once the man was in the aircraft and provided the necessary medical care. Further medical treatment was administered at the SAMIM Level 2 hospital.
“Accolades must be given to the quick reaction from the aircrew and AMET and their professional conduct during this extreme difficult technical rescue. The aircrew consisted of Major JA Augustyn (Oryx Commander), Captain R Mothoa (Co-pilot), WO2 A Prince (Flight Engineer) and Sergeant Raphiri. SAMIM will continue working with FADM to assist the people of Mozambique and attain requisite peace and stability,” stated Lieutenant Phumela Veldtman, information operations officer for SAMIM Headquarters.
Tropical Storm Freddy has killed more than 100 people, injured scores and left a trail of destruction across southern Africa after hitting the continent for the second time in a month. The World Meteorological Organisation said Freddy could be the longest lasting tropical cyclone, hitting Mozambique for a second time on 12 March 2023.
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