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Rescue workers now checking sewers as search for Khayalethu Magadla continues

22 June 2022 - 15:58
Khayalethu Magadla is believed to have fallen into a manhole in Dlamini, Soweto, a week before his sixth birthday.
Khayalethu Magadla is believed to have fallen into a manhole in Dlamini, Soweto, a week before his sixth birthday.
Image: Antonio Muchave

A Johannesburg Water team was on Wednesday inspecting the sewer line along Fuscia Road in Klipspruit West as they help in the search for a five-year-old boy who fell into a manhole while playing with friends in Soweto 10 days ago. 

Khayalethu Magadla — who would have celebrated his sixth birthday a week later — plunged into an uncovered manhole at a popular park in Mtambo Street in Dlamini.

The search and rescue operation started with the team excavating the embankment at the old landfill site, about eight metres above the manhole, to expose the pipe and drill to insert a camera.

“This exercise will encompass the team walking from manhole to manhole up to the split chambers leading to the JW wastewater treatment works. The distance between where the search will start today [Wednesday] and the split chambers is about four kilometres,” said Johannesburg Water spokesperson Seipati Nyawuza.

Johannesburg Water has pleaded with the community for support, understanding and patience as the team focuses on the search and recovery of the body of the missing boy.

“We plead that the family be allowed space to get through this terrible ordeal,” Nyawuza said.

Khayalethu and friends were playing soccer when he apparently fell into the manhole.

Police divers, municipal sewerage engineers and firefighters have been searching the waste water system with specialised equipment, so far in vain.

Robert Mulaudzi, spokesperson for the city’s emergency management services, said the narrow infrastructure of the manholes was a challenge for rescuers. Visibility had also been a challenge. 

The sewer system extends about 20km and flows from Meadowlands to the Olifantsvlei purification plant.

The manholes are 1.8m deep and 1.2m in diameter and the wastewater in the pipes flows at up to 11km/h, presenting a challenge for divers. Higher than normal water levels, due to rain, have also been a factor.

Mulaudzi said last week the chances of finding the boy alive were slim and the operation had been declared a search and recovery. 


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