Game viewers airlifted out as floods hit Kruger
A night game drive in the Kruger National Park turned into a nightmare when torrential floods left holidaymakers stranded.
SA National Parks spokesman Reynold Thakhuli said yesterday: "We had six tourists on a game drive who got stuck at one of the picnic sites."
The group was airlifted to safety by a park helicopter as the rain continued to pour down.
"They had minor injuries and are receiving medical attention," Thakhuli said.
The rain, which began on Tuesday night and began to ease off only late yesterday afternoon, has forced the authorities to close park gates and evacuate guests from flooded camps as roads turn into rivers.
Outside the park, flooding in the Hoedspruit area has left many people stranded.
Liza de Vente, 26, is trapped, without electricity or clean water, at a farmhouse near Hoedspruit.
"The river is rising by the minute," she said, thankful to be safe in a house on higher ground.
Late yesterday afternoon, the Blyde River, flowing through her property, was 2m higher than during the last flood, in 2000, De Vente said.
She is expecting to be stranded at the farm for the next two days, but that depends on whether the rain stops. SA Weather Service forecaster Elizabeth Webster predicted a 60% chance of rain today, a 30% chance of rain tomorrow and no rain on Saturday. The service defines heavy rain as more than 50mm in 24 hours.
The Hoedspruit weather station, close to the Kruger Park gates, measured 267mm of rain between 8am on Tuesday and 8am yesterday. A further 100mm fell in six hours yesterday, between 8am and 2pm.
The water level in lower Sabi had reached the fence at the edge of the camp site from which about 30 people were evacuated yesterday.
An unknown number of guests had been evacuated from the Tinga private lodge, said Thakhuli.
The Skukuza and Letaba camps had been cut off. Staff accommodation at both camps, and the generator and petrol station in Letaba, had been flooded.
Part of the road between Satara and Orpen was closed.
The road between Letaba and Phalaborwa was closed for most of yesterday.
The Crocodile Bridge gate and the Giriyondo border post had been closed, as had the Biyamiti, Shimuwini and Talamati camps.
The extent of the damage caused by the flooding was not known, said Thakuli.
The following gates have been closed:
- Phabeni gate
- Paul Kruger gate
- Crocodile Bridge gate
- Giriyondo Border gate
- Malelane to Skukuza
- Phalaborwa gate to Mopani
- Letaba to Mopani
- Olifants to Satara
- Lower Sabie to Skukuza
- Crocodile Bridge to Lower Sabie
And the following camps are currently not accessible
- Lower Sabie
- Crocodile Bridge
- Imbali Concession Lodge
- Tshokwane picnic site