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Floods of 2000, part 2: The kindness of a community

Dozens of people in Malalane waded through waist-deep water to carry furniture and valuables to safety when a street flooded during February 2000. One of the affected residents, Johan Daffue, recalls the disaster and community's support.

Imagine the horror of seeing a once picturesque river trying to swallow something you’ve been building for years. This was the experience of Johan Daffue, owner of River House and collector of Afrikana, during the flood on 7 February 2000.

ALSO READ: Floods of 2000: Part 2: Family Rescued

Daffue recalls that the Crocodile River’s levels started rising at about 06:00 that morning and were about 17m higher than normal at around 13:30. As River House is situated in Fish Eagle Bend, overlooking the river, he kept a close eye on the roaring mass of water. It flowed past at about 50m3 per second and even flooded the bottom street of the neighbourhood.

The Crocodile River rose by about 17 to 20 metres. This was the view from River House’s deck on the morning of February 7, 2000.

“One of the saddest moments of the ordeal was when we heard a loud crack and our beautiful wooden deck started drifting downstream,” Duffue reminisced.  Some of his antiques, which had been gathered over a couple of decades, were also swept away in the flood.

One of the guests was an electrician and sprang into action once they realised that the water would rise past safe levels. He switched off the neighbourhood’s electricity to avoid electrocution.

Community members started helping affected households, which numbered around 15, and carried furniture and other valuables to safety. In some cases they had to wade waist-deep through the water.

Shocked residents already had to witness fridges and furniture being swept past and it was a rush to save what they could.

Water rushed through River House and even the street beyond was flooded.

The former TSB sent trucks to help move furniture to temporary storage and a local supermarket’s staff drove up and down the street that evening handing out curry and rice.

“The community was very good to us during the time we had to close for repairs. For three months they brought food and water around three times a day,” Daffue said.

The water had swept through the lodge, depositing sand, silt and other debris in every nook and cranny. The drains were blocked with a variety of housewares.  Cleaning up everything and getting the sand and mud out of the fixtures took a long time, Daffue explained.

Grass, branches and other debris was washed onto River House’s lawn.

Following warnings about tropical cyclone Dineo, Daffue says he received calls from all over the country and even overseas. “Previous and regular guests, especially those that remembered the previous flood, wanted to find out if we were okay and needed any help.”

ALSO READ: Floods 0f 2000, Part 1: History revisited

Despite the losses in the flood, Daffue was left with a deep impression of the kindness and support of the people of Malalane.

Visitors to the award-winning guest house will still be able to see the foundations of the old wooden deck, a memorial of the floods. “We’ve painted it and put a few flower pots, but felt that it should be kept as a part of Malelane’s history,”Daffue concluded.

The foundation of the old deck stands as a reminder of the flood 17 years ago.

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