South African worshippers swept away in Jukskei River flash flood, Johannesburg
15 people died in South Africa after a flash flood in a river swept away worshippers taking part in a church baptism ceremony. Some of the more than 30 congregants were standing on rocks in the river on Saturday, 3 December 2022, when a torrent of water surged through, an eyewitness said. The pastor was saved after he clung on to an overhanging tree branch as he was carried away, the witness added. Twelve bodies were recovered Sunday in addition to two bodies recovered Saturday, Johannesburg Emergency Services spokesman, Robert Mulaudzi, said.
Members of the congregation were participating in rituals along the river when a flash flood swept away several of the worshipers. The riverside services were being conducted near Alexandra, in Johannesburg.
There are still thought to be at least three people unaccounted for and the search operation, which involves the police and fire service as well as specialist aquatic rescue teams, which continued on Monday.
NSRI Gauteng was alerted by Netcare 911 ambulance services at around 16h30, Saturday. NSRI Gauteng, City of Johannesburg EMS, Gauteng Government Health EMS, Johannesburg Fire and Rescue Services from Sandton Fire Station, CPF Security, South African Police Services, Police divers and Police K9 Search and Rescue responded to muster at Arkwright Avenue where a search commenced for what was believed to be 18 missing persons washed away by the fast flowing Jukskei River.
During an initial search CoJEMS located a female where NSRI rescue swimmers and Police divers recovered the body of the adult female on a sandbank in the Jukskei River at the Grayston Drive Bridge on Katherine Street.
An adult female was recovered by Fire and Rescue Services officers near to Arkwright Avenue and she was transported to hospital by ambulance in a stable condition suffering hypothermia.
NSRI were notified that emergency services had located and recovered the body of a female teenager and the body had been taken into the care of Government Health Forensic Pathology Services.
A Fidelity Security helicopter, with thermal imaging sensors, joined in the search.
During the night church groups were attempting to determine who from their parishes remained missing.
On Sunday morning NSRI Vaal Dam and NSRI Hartbeespoort Dam joined NSRI Gauteng, City of Johannesburg Emergency Services (CoJEMS), Gauteng Government Health EMS, City of Johannesburg EMS, South African Police Service, Police divers, Police K9 Search and Rescue, Search and Rescue South Africa (SARSA) and CPF Security in the ongoing search.
During Sunday, in challenging conditions, sadly 12 bodies were located and recovered. Near to Witkoppen Road, Rivonia - an adult female; near to Kramerville, Sandton, two adult males; near to the corners of Grayston Drive and Katherine Street, a male child and a female toddler; near to Morningside Manor, a female child and two adult females; near to Froom Street, Atholl, an adult female; near to South Road, Rivonia, an adult male; near to Morningside Manor, an adult female and near to The Terraces at 12th Avenue, Alexandra, an adult female.
On Sunday afternoon NSRI Witbank has joined in the ongoing search.
On Tuesday morning, the Johannesburg Emergency Medical Services (EMS) widened their search to retrieve the remaining three congregants, but no new bodies were found.
CoJEMS member Xolile Khumalo said, "Our search and rescue team has been conducting the searches in 8th and 12th Avenue in Sandton and moved down to the N1 and we have not recovered any bodies."
At this stage, the emergency team could not confirm the genders of those missing. However, a three-month-old baby is said to be among the missing. Khumalo said she could not be sure how the heavy rains that struck Johannesburg on Monday would impact the search but said the team would continue to move along the river in hopes of finding more bodies.
Bodies of the deceased were taken into the care of Government Health Forensic Pathology Services.
The Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) called off its rescue operations for a three-month-old baby in the Jukskei River due to the rainy weather on 11 December 2022. Rescuers were searching for the infant who was among those swept away during a baptism in Bramley Park, last week. Fifteen other bodies were recovered from the river during the course of the week but there was still no sign of the baby.
The Johannesburg EMS’ Xolile Khumalo said they were meant to resume their search Monday morning. “It was called off yesterday [Sunday) evening with the hopes to start again this morning but seeing that it’s raining, the team could not go to the river. So, the search, when it stopped, we are around Katherine and Grayston Road in Sandton.”
FRI applaud the tireless efforts of all rescue services and support services involved in the search, rescue and recovery operation. Much respect!
Sources: NSRI, SARZA, EWN, News 24, SABC, Los Angeles Times