28 February 2018

Botswana: Heavy Rains Batter Lepashe

Lepashe — Heavy torrential rains this week continued to batter the northern parts of the country, and the rail transportation of both soda ash and coal to and from Sua Town and Morupule coal mine grounded to a halt.

In a scene reminiscent of images of monsoon rains that people in the country normally see on television, residents of Mosupe in Lepashe could not believe their eyes on Sunday as metre high water waves swooped on the small settlement which is populated by arable farmers and caused havoc in the eerily quiet forested area.

On a normal day, the settlement located a few hundered metres from the A3 Road to Maun and Kazungula occasionally roars to life courtesy of the Botswana Railways locomotive trains that ferry soda ash from the Botash Mine to its markets in South Africa and coal from Morupule in Palapye to fire the engines at the mine.

However, Sunday February 25 would remain a day etched in the mind of Mr Bonani Mosutho who was lost for words when we paid him a visit at his lands where he has lived with his mother and siblings since 1972.

After what started as a normal day, the subsistence farmer explained that light rains that had been falling in the area did not arouse any suspicions around the sparsely populated arable farming lands.

He said as the light rains gathered pace, he went outside to ensure that everything was in its proper place only to be confronted by high rising water waves which were flowing from nowhere and approaching his homestead.

Mr Mosutho, who was visibly shaken, explained that what shocked him was the sight of the water covering a Toyota Hilux vehicle which was parked in the yard, and he immediately realised that it was not an ordinary occurrence.

"I immediately rushed back into the house to rescue my elderly mother who was alone and in danger of being submerged in water in the hut to take her to a higher place in another room where I placed her on top of the bed," he added.

While still in confusion, he said they had a loud bang on the side of the railway line and immediately knew that a terrible accident might have taken place.

As he was contemplating his next move in his flight to safety, he said he was surprised by the sight of dozens of live goats floating past his yard under the forceful waves of water.

Mr Mosutho managed to escape with his mother to a neighbouring homestead which sits on high ground where they spent the night before seeking help the following morning, and taking his mother to seek medical attention as she had been affected by the cold.

The farmer counts himself lucky as he only lost five goats and one sheep.

He also indicated that the kgosi, social welfare officer and the police came to assess the situation.

The incident, he said, was the first of its kind to happen in the area and has left him shell shocked. To make matters worse, the rain has cost him his herd boy who assisted in looking after both goats and cattle.

"He was so frightened that this morning he, together with his family, quit and went back to the village," he explained.

He sister, Ms Jane Masalila, who was away from the homestead at the time of the floods, was counting her losses as her tuck-shop was submerged in water. She only managed to come back the following morning to be met with devastation from the raging floods.

Ms Masalila was lost for words as the tuck-shop was her source of sustenance, and she noted that it was going to affect her life negatively.

Some subsistence farmers such as Ms Sinikiwe Gaseitsewe who managed to rescue their animals were worried by the environmental damage caused by the train accident. She expressed concern that the diesel spillage from the locomotive had flown into streams that feed the dam which they relied on for drinking water, and wanted swift action to be taken to mitigate the disaster that could befall them and their animals.

Of all the farmers who were affected by the floods, none suffered losses like Mr Kabelo Oookeditse who lost 91 goats, literally turning him into a pauper.

Still reeling from the devastation, he explained that he left his job in the construction industry to focus on his small stock seven years ago, and that all his dreams had vanished within a day.

He said he received a call from neighbours that his goats were floating in the water, and that he made attempts to salvage them.

"As we approached the railway line we were confronted by huge waves of water and we decided to run for our dear lives to safety. We went back the following morning to find my dead goats strewn all over the place," he painfully explained.

Source : BOPA

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