Floods are a common hazard in South Africa, especially during periods of heavy rainfall – such as the summer months in the Highveld and winter in the Cape.
Not all floods are alike: some develop slowly, while flash floods can engulf you in a matter of minutes. Flood warnings are normally communicated by the local weather office or disaster risk management centres, but if you see signs that a flood might occur near your campsite, then alert the resort management immediately, or report the activity to your local authorities. Keep listening to local radio bulletins or check for online updates, but always remember that a warning is only as good as your reaction to it.
Alistair Buchanan, an avid camper and caravaner for over 50 years, shares some of his insights on what to do when caught off-guard by a flood. ‘If you’re going on holiday to a campsite on a river, or one close to the shore, then it’s important to do some planning beforehand. Think about what could go wrong, and consider your possible evacuation plans.’ He adds that you should familiarise yourself with the resort’s evacuation plans and procedures, and be sure to have a clear mental picture of the surrounding area so that you know how best to react if disaster strikes.
If there’s a flood warning in the surrounding areas and you’ve been advised to prepare to evacuate, then it’s very important to have a pre-assembled emergency kit at the ready, and to have a family communications plan in place.
• Pack a change of clothing, which includes something warm as well as a raincoat.
• Collect any important documents (ID and driver’s licences) and selected expensive items (jewellery, money, keys and cellphone) to store in a small waterproof bag.
• Fill up your water bottles. This might sound unusual in a flood, but remember that you can’t drink flood water as it’s not clean.
• Pack a bag containing some non-perishable food in case you are stranded, waiting to be rescued.
• Pack a small first-aid bag with any medication required by your family.
• Leave the premises as soon as you are told to evacuate.
Remember that your life and the lives of your loved ones are far more important than material things such as your possessions, including your car or caravan. These items can be replaced by insurance, but your family and your life can’t. If you can remain calm and keep a clear head, even in the face of danger, you will be better able to deal with the situation and more able to help those around you.Remember that your life and the lives of your loved ones are far more important than material things such as your possessions, your car or caravan. These items can be replaced by insurance, but your family and your life can’t. If you can remain calm and keep a clear head, even in the face of danger, you will be able to deal with the situation better and be able to help those around you. DO climb to high ground and stay there until help arrives.
DO NOT ever walk through any floodwaters; go another way.
LEAVE IT If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and move to higher ground. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.
WATER 6-INCHES DEEP can knock you off your feet and sweep you away, if the water is fast moving.
TWO FEET OF WATER can sweep a motor vehicle away.