I Shouldn’t Be Alive (Limpopo) Part 2

We carried on, screaming and screaming. Finally we saw a tree near us. It was submerged but the treetop was still visible. We clung to the tree… …and let the tree trunk we floated on… …be taken by the current. Only our necks stuck out of the water. With our hands, we clung to the branches… …and stayed there the first night. Couldn’t the authorities have done something? Weeks before the floods… …ARA-Sul (Regional Water Administration of the South)… had been monitoring the water levels… …at stations along the basin. They noticed an increase in the water level… …but were only concerned about the levels… …a week before the floods hit. An important monitoring station in South Africa… …was damaged by the rain… …and the local authorities were not able… …to monitor the levels of the water. The next day, when the station was restored… …the levels of the water had drastically increased… …and ARA-Sul issued an alert to the provincial authorities. Despite the fact that the alert… …was issued five days before the floods… …red-tape caused the message… …to reach the people too late. Some only received the alert a day before… …and others, like those with me… …did not receive any alert. If it was not for the many steps taken… …to help reduce flooding… …by LIMCOM (Limpopo Watercourse Commission)… …no one would have received the alert… …and thousands would have died in this catastrophe. Professor, did the story end there? No. We hung onto that treetop for days… …and by the third day the hunger was extreme. We prayed, and by some miracle… …tomatoes, peppers and maize… …floated by that we could eat. That same day, helicopters started flying around the area. Telma took off her shirt… …and we waved it around on a stick… …and we all shouted… HELP! HELP! We were stuck there, day and night… …and at night we couldn’t even sleep. On the 5th day, Sunday, Day of the Lord… …we were certain He would help us. We started gathering grass and sticks… …to build a makeshift raft. We used the bark from branches of a fig tree… …to make rope for the raft …and on the sixth day… …we were ready to leave that tree. The raft took us to shallow water… …and we used sticks from the raft… …to support us in our walk. We then heard someone crying for help. I’m going to die! My grandchildren will be left alone! I’m dying! Please someone help me! We saw an old lady clinging to a tree. We helped her down. She knew the surrounding area… …and showed us the path to the main road. Her name was Podina. We reached the main road eventually… …but instead of joy, we all felt despair. We had formed a strong bond… …but it was time that… …each of us go our own way. We were just a few amongst many… …that lost everything during the floods. We didn’t even have any way… …of exchanging phone numbers. And just like that, it was all over. Wow, Professor Francisco, you’re a hero. Professor, what happened to the others? Francisco, it’s me Mama Podina! Francisco! Hey! Mama Podina! Francisco! It’s me Mama Podina. Francisco. Hey! Is this you? Yes it’s me. I can’t believe it’s really you! Yes it’s really me. Mama Podina, let’s get out of the bush and talk. All is well! All is well! God is great! That is true Podina. God loves us. Is it really you? It’s me. Let’s sit and talk. Mama Podina, what actually happened that day? I went to the field to work. I did not know there would be a flood that day. The sun was shining. There were no clouds. The sky was clear. A flood was the last thing on my mind. I was caught in the flood because I did not believe… …a flood could happen twice in my life. I did not believe that it would strike again. They warned me that water was coming… …but I did not believe them. Even my neighbour and grandkids warned me… …not to go but I did not listen. I never thought there would be a flood without any rain. The sun was blazing, I did not know. I had my own field before the last flood… …but that flood devastated the soil and crops. Nothing was left to plant with. I can no longer use that field. I now work for my friend. She pays me $15 a month… …to help support my grandchildren. I have four of them. I have so much passion for children, Mama Podina. I wish the children of this region could learn… …for a better future. Swimming should be a daily activity… …which is important in their lives. The important people who make decisions… …about flood prevention… …should make sure that systems that warn us… …are better developed. It will improve our province. Our experiences should be used as an example… …so that we can avoid the same thing happening again. More development and empowerment… …of early warning systems is needed. Strong infrastructure… …that can prevent the flood could be built. Better methods… …of warning our communities of floods… …can also help. If this happens… …it will benefit and help save the next generation. That’s the truth. Now that you know what happened… …what are you going to do?

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