Friday, 19 December 2014

Swaziland: Search continues for victims of kombi swept by flooded river

Army roped in to help police as search for more bodies intensifies following an accident which saw a fully-loaded kombi swept away by a flooded river at Mgazini on Monday

An intensive search for more dead bodies at Mgazini yesterday saw the retrieval of the Quantum kombi driver about 20 kilometres from where the incident happened on Monday evening.

The driver of the kombi, which operated as Khathazile Transport, Mpendulo Dlamini, was found at Mancubeni while the kombi is believed to have been swept by a heavy tide while attempting to cross a bridge at Mawelawela River.

This increases the number of confirmed victims to 11.

It transpired that the body of the driver was swept by the flooded river for kilometres before it was deposited into the Ngwempisi River. As early as 7am members of Royal Swaziland Police were already split in groups in search of bodies at least from four different spots.

The driver’s body was found yesterday morning and the officers and scuba divers proceeded with the search until 3pm when it was called off, at least for the day.

According to the Regional Commissioner Richard Mngomezulu, officers woke up to continue with the operation but had to break at 3pm as it had been a long day.

He explained that the reason for taking the break was to allow officers to rest as the nature of the job they were doing needed them to have enough energy hence the operation would resume this morning.

He confirmed that there were now 11 bodies found from the accident. Amongst the accident victims was also a six-year-old boy believed to have been with his mother at the time.

Residents from Mgazini and surrounding areas also continued to render their help in searching for more victims from the accident.

The accident, which has left many people around the area speechless, happened on Monday evening when the kombi said to be the last mode of transport from Mgazini to Lushikishini was swept by a flooded river, killing all on onboard.

Army roped in to assist police in operation

Members of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) were yesterday roped in to assist the police in the search for more bodies at Mgazini.

The approximately 50 soldiers joined the police, who were reported to be around 110 to render help while they looked for more people who could have been trapped along the river.

The soldiers together with the Royal Swaziland Police, Scuba divers from OSSU, Fire and Emergency personnel as well as paramedics from the Emergency Services were split into different groups as the operation entered its second day. Only one person, the kombi driver was found by the operational squad.

Eleven bodies identified by families

At least all 11 bodies retrieved from the river have so far been identified by their families. With the assistance of police officers, the families were allowed to see their relatives at the mortuary, where the bodies are kept.

Yesterday, about 10 families visited Mankayane Police Station, where they were taken to the mortuary to view the bodies. The residents confirmed that they were had seen their relatives. The body of the kombi conductor was identified by his aunt on Tuesday at Mawelawela River before it was even taken to the mortuary.

On the other hand, two families reported to Mankayane police that they were still missing some of their relatives. A former teacher from Nokuthula Primary School was said to have phoned home that she was coming but never did. Her daughter and son-in-law have been hoping to find her but this had not happened by the time the operation was called off.

Another male adult also reported his girlfriend and child missing as he could not reach them on their mobile phone.

Cops believe more buried in debris

Police believe there could be more people buried in debris and even under the river sand.

This follows information to the effect that the kombi could have been overloaded, carrying about 20 people. Only 11 bodies have so far been found and identified.

According to Regional Commissioner Richard Mngomezulu the search would continue until they were satisfied that all the people who could have been aboard the vehicle were found.

“There is a possibility that more people are missing or buried underneath the river sand hence we will continue with the operation until we are assured all have been retrieved,” he said.

He said this was very important especially for the families who needed to accord their loved ones a dignified send off.

“As Swazis, we all know that when a person is no more, he or she is given a decent burial hence it is important for us to ensure such eventually happens for all the families,” Mngomezulu said.

The first day of the operation saw 10 bodies being retrieved under rocks and thorny bushes where they were plunged by the heavy water.

Residents request for sniffer dogs

While residents concur with the police that more bodies could be buried underneath, they believe the incorporation of sniffer dogs from the Correctional Services could be of great help.

Interviewed, some of the residents, who were found at Mawelawela River attempting to retrieve the remains of the Toyota Quantum mentioned that they feared more people could be left buried.

This was mainly because there was piled up rubble from the heavy storm and flood which hit the area on Monday afternoon. identify

Mduduzi Dlamini, who claimed to have lost a neighbour during the incident, said if possible, the dogs from the department should be roped in as they could possibly identify some of the bodies that the current squad had not been able to find.

He explained that even though the dogs were said to operate under certain instructions and capabilities, it was only worth a try as clothes could also be used.

Kombi wreckage found buried in sand

The remains of the wrecked Toyota Quantum were yesterday found buried deep in the river sand by residents. When this publication arrived at the scene, relatives of the kombi owner together with other members of the community were found dismantling the remains in an effort to retrieve it from the river.

However, there was hardly any part in shape as the engine was covered in sand while the car diff was spotted about 300 metres from where the squashed kombi was. Residents expressed dismay over the fact that the Fire and Emergency personnel did not assist them in retrieving the kombi possibly because they saw no use of the remains.

“We were told they were coming but they did not. The only people who came here were the police and soldiers who only checked if there were no bodies trapped and they also left,” said one of the residents.

The kombi is believed to have been swept by a flooded river while attempting to cross a bridge at Mawelawela on Monday.


On the other hand, some residents have come up to state that the kombi could have been swept by the strong winds from the storm that hit the area on Monday.

Shortly before the accident, it was reported that a majority of homesteads had their roof tops blown off with a number of trees uprooted.

The winds were strong that even the biggest trees in the area had branches broken hence the kombi could have come across the storm while waiting for the water levels at the second bridge to decline, explained some of the residents.

Community members join search .

Residents from both Mgazini and Lushikishini joined the Royal Swaziland Police in search for the missing passengers who died when a Toyota Quantum plunged into Mawelawela River.

However, the residents believe government can do better to ensure that such incidents are attended to swiftly. Community Policeman Almon Mndzebele, speaking on behalf of the residents, stated that police officers from Mankayane were faced with a serious shortage of vehicles.

He said the only cars available were not in a proper state, thus not fit to effectively do some of the duties. He implored government to consider providing more cars so that whenever they reported such incidents, the officers were able to respond swiftly.

Mndzebele also complained that whenever they called the 999 line, they were either not attended to or given a certain attitude which made their operations very difficult.

In reference to the incident, Mndzebele said he spent about E300 airtime while trying to contact some of his colleagues so that they could attend to the matter.

Friday 19 December 2014


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