Frank Ndela was crossing a low-water bridge on Belgrave Street near Riverclub north of Johannesburg on Saturday evening when the wheels of his car lost traction and was washed off into the Braamfontein Spruit.
“I was scared but I managed to break the window and get out as the water was starting to flood the car‚” he said.
Ndela said that when he was crossing the bridge at around 5.40pm‚ the water was starting to come over the edge‚ but it was still very shallow. When he was in the middle‚ he felt the car sliding to the side.
Ndela escaped from the car with only a few scratches on his hand and then went off to work so that he was not late for his shift at a nearby complex.
“My mind was on going to work‚ so by the time I got outside‚ I was there for five minutes and then I went to work‚” he said.
Ndela said that there was nothing on the bridge to prevent his car from being swept off. He said that he made it to work on time that evening and then gone back to the scene the next day worried that his car would be stripped overnight. But the weather kept any likely criminals at bay.
A number of people spotted Ndela's red car in the Braamfontein Spruit during the evening and even posted pictures of emergency services attempting to reach it.
The search for the occupant was suspended until the water subsided because it was too dangerous for rescue workers to go into the strong current.
Rose Bishop said that she had gone down to the bridge on Sunday to put red-and-white tape across the road to prevent others from crossing when someone pointed out to her that Ndela was the driver.
Ndela was surprised when Bishop told him that police were looking for him because they assumed he had been swept away. Bishop said that the low-water bridge was a huge issue and a very dangerous crossing in the area. She said she knew of four or five cars that had been swept away over the past few years with one woman having died when her car was swept away.
According to the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA)‚ as little as 30cm of water can float your car. More lives are lost in the city through flash flooding than any other weather-related incidents‚ the JRA said.
Drowning is the leading cause of death with 80% of fatalities occurring among occupants of vehicles‚ the JRA said in a statement. Drivers often underestimate the dangers of flooding‚ especially at low-lying bridges‚ the agency said. “Persistent heavy rains always cause concerns for the city‚” the JRA’s Acting Managing Director‚ Mpho Kau‚ said.
“Large volumes of water are dropped within a brief period and sudden floods can occur with little or no advance warning. “Many of our residents are unprepared for the sudden surge in water levels and streams can suddenly turn into raging torrents that tear out trees‚ destroy buildings and obliterate bridges.”
It offered seven tips that could save one’s life during heavy rains:
There is an overall budget of R120-million for low-lying bridges susceptible to periodical flooding which are now being raised above the floodline‚ said Kau. The JRA has identified “hotspot flood areas” in the city and has taken steps to mitigate the impact of sudden downpours.
Kau said high-risk areas in the city mapped by JRA include Dobsonville‚ Green Village‚ Mapetla‚ Orlando East and West‚ Phiri‚ Doornkop‚ Braamfischerville‚ Orange Farm‚ Eldorado Park‚ Diepsloot‚ Ivory Park‚ Industria‚ Lenasia‚ Devland and North Riding. – TMG Digital
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