16 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Over 100 Marooned Mourners Rescued

MORE than 100 mourners, who included Central Vehicle Registry staff members, were yesterday rescued after being marooned by floods for four days in Tanda village in Headlands. They were air-lifted by an Augusta Bell 412 helicopter from the village where they had attended the funeral of their colleague and relative, Ms Wendy Saumba, on Saturday, to Mayo Business Centre.

The director responsible for transport in the Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development Ministry, Mr Allowance Sango, and CVR registrar Mr George Makoni witnessed the rescue operations.

Mr Sango commended the Tanda community for assisting the mourners and the staff members.

"We want to appreciate the assistance that our staff members and mourners got from the community. We have managed to rescue our staff whom we found fatigued but joyful," said Sango.

Mr Sango said the rescue operation was a joint effort by several Government ministries and departments led by the Civil Protection Unit.

The stranded mourners were airlifted in groups of 15 by an Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopter.

The CVR staff members, who were travelling on a CMED bus, found out that a bridge they were supposed to cross had collapsed due to heavy rains. The alternative route had flooded rivers. The other mourners were travelling in a Nyaradzo Funeral Services bus.

Narrating their ordeal, CVR staff member Mr Elisha Chabuka said they were surviving on wild fruits and also got assistance from community members.

He said among the stranded mourners were pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers who had left their children at home and chronic patients who had left their medication as they anticipated to return home on the same day.

"We pooled our resources and bought two goats, a bag of mealie meal and three chickens. We had no change of clothes and sanitary ware, especially for the women.

"It was a difficult experience but finally we were rescued and we would like to thank the Government for their swift response," said Chabuka.

Mr Sango said they had brought the stranded mourners food and other amenities.

Civil Protection Unit director Mr Madzudzo Pawadyira said they could not rescue the group earlier because the Airforce team was attending the other victims in Middle Sabi.

"The Air Force team was in Middle Sabi attending to other victims who were in a serious condition which needed immediate attention compared to the Tanda group which was in a safe community and were constantly receiving assistance from the community members," said Mr Pawadyira.

He also maintained that the CPU is ready to respond to any flood-related emergencies that may occur.

Meanwhile,the Air Force of Zimbabwe on Monday successfully carried out a search and rescue operation for eight villagers marooned on small islands along Chidzere and Save rivers.

Heavy rains had resulted in flooding at the confluence of the two rivers.

Police in Murambinda had alerted the Civil Protection Unit of the incidents.

AFZ operations director Group Captain Alphious Gwata said they immediately deployed a helicopter to the area.

The eight villagers were found at two different locations.

"Five children and three adults were rescued from two different locations at the confluence of Chidzere and Save rivers at the end of the mission," he said.

Police in Murambinda applauded the successful mission.

They, however, said a villager who had climbed up a tree after the water levels continued to rise had not yet been found.

Group Capt Gwata said they received the distress call to assist CVR staff in Chiendambuya but gave the Save River operation top priority as it was life-threatening.

He said the AFZ was committed to playing its part in rescue operations although they had limited resources.

"As such, operations were prioritised in terms of the level of threat to human lives," he said.

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