Rain continues to cause havoc in the //Karas Region, which saw a three-year-old boy swept away from his mother by a deluge of rainwater at Komsberg farm near Ariamsvlei as they tried to run from their flooded house to higher ground on Thursday.
The child is still missing while more than 60 reed houses were completely destroyed by the floods at Komsberg farm, which also accommodates workers from the neighbouring Desert Fruit farm.
The two farms are situated 70km south-east of Ariamsvlei.
As New Era visited grape and date farms on Friday, the police and the Namibian Defence Force were busy helping victims and searching for the missing boy.
It’s alleged that the mother was carrying another child on her back and held the hand of the three year-old as they tried to move to higher ground, but strong water swept the child away. Some people lost all their belongings and were left hopeless and confused, not knowing what to do.
Their houses with all their belongings were buried under the sand brought down by the floodwater, but some were trying to dig up a few of their belongings from under the debris. Tsimpungu Amatus described what happened as devastating. He said that the houses started flooding at about 18h00 to 23h00 and it was chaotic as everyone was fighting to stay alive.
Many people reportedly sustained minor to severe injuries as the trees they were holding onto were uprooted and swept away.
Amatus says the flow was so strong that some people had their clothes ripped off by the force of the current. “One man was washed away while he was in his work overalls and he was completely naked when he was rescued and a neighbour gave him his trousers. There was no time to be ashamed, it was terrible,” he said.
About 300 metres away from the destroyed houses is the Orange River.
The women said it was a terrible experience, adding that they spent about three hours during the ordeal watching, crying and shouting to each other to hang onto trees.
Erna Gideon said that some people hung onto trees for the whole three hours of the ordeal. She said a fridge belonging to a businessman where the community buys meat and other food was also washed away with its contents and some of the washed away reed houses could be seen drifting further into the river.
“It was very bad – our maize meal, cooking oil and other items were floating but we couldn’t do anything, people have lost many things,” she said.
Karasburg East Constituency Councillor Dennis Coetzee however feels this could have been prevented if the workers were not living in a riverbed. After assessing the damage, he said it would have never happened if the two companies Gomsberg and Desert Fruit had cared enough to move the about 800 workers to higher ground away from the riverbed.
He vowed to meet the management of the companies and look at a permanent solution that will improve the living and housing conditions of workers, saying should the companies not have a solution, “a solution will be given to them and this might be costly”. He blasted the companies “for not caring about their workers”, indicating that they are only interested in making money. “As long as they get manpower they are happy, but they don’t care about the people,” he said.
The most affected households received tents, bags of maize meal, tins of fish and cooking oil from the //Karas Regional Council and other donors.