Southern Africa: Tropical Cyclone Kenneth flash update no. 1 - UN OCHA
Paul Herbst escorting a mom and her baby to safety. Photo: IPSS Medical Rescue and Rescue SA
The team spent ten days in Mozambique, rescuing countless people in terrible conditions.
They spent about 18 hours a day rescuing desperate people clinging to trees and sitting on rooftops after cyclone Idai hit Mozambique last week.
Ballito’s IPSS Medical Rescue spokesperson Paul Herbst said Lenmed – a healthcare group with a hospital in Maputo – asked them to put together a team of 15 paramedics together with Rescue SA to help in the crisis. They drove for three days to get to Beira, Mozambique and arrived just in time.
“The storm hit shortly after we got there. We did countless, difficult water rescues in thunder, lighting and severe gusts,” said Herbst, who slept on the floor in the airport with the others rescuers.
He said the worst part was knowing you could not save everyone.
“We rescued women and children first, but by the time we could come back, the others were already washed away. We are used to helping everyone – choosing who to save is never an option, but we simply could not get to everyone.
“You could hear people screaming from the trees, calling for help. I saw a woman throwing her baby into one of the rescue boats. It was horrific.”
They had to eventually call off the rescue which went well into the night due to the dangerous conditions. By the time they came back the next morning, everything was under water.
Watch as the helicopter flies to the pick-up spot to take more people to safety:
“Whole towns were gone. The water level was so high that the electricity cables on the poles were lying on top of the water.
“One rescue I will not forget was when we found a five-year-old girl who had been sitting on a rooftop on her own for four days. Her whole family was washed away.”
While roughly 400 people have so far between reported dead after the cyclone, Herbst said he expects the death toll to go well into the thousands.
“We have no idea how many people were just washed away.”
Watch Herbst during one of the many rescue missions.
He said those who survived and were rescued are now at temporary camps set up by the Red Cross.
“The place is in shambles – there are no roads, no water, no electricity, no communication services. We even battled to get comms with a satelite phone.”
After ten days in Mozambique, the team flew back home, leaving their six vehicles behind as all the roads were washed away.
Watch as the mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted team arrived at King Shaka International Airport where their family, friends and community members gave them a hero’s welcome last Thursday evening:
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