United in the service of others, we reveal the true strength of humanity

One of the biggest rescue operations seen in South Africa restores the pride of a nation

Thursday, May 5 2022

The apocalyptic floods that have ravaged KwaZulu-Natal have resulted in unspeakable loss, heartbreak and displacement – the toll of which will be felt for a very long time. There has also been untold tenacity, sacrifice, bravery and a highly committed and capable team of rescuers at work. In the aftermath of the flood, this should not be disregarded or forgotten.

Commenting on the tragedy that continues to unfold in KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of Netcare said: “Like all fellow South Africans we are deeply saddened by the human tragedy that has occurred, particularly when contemplating the immense impact this is having on the most vulnerable and poor, whose circumstances have been further worsened by this catastrophic event.

“And yet, bearing witness to one of the most heroic search and rescue missions in the recent history of our country, as coordinated by government, we have found ourselves in awe of the remarkable efforts made by people from all walks of life and all corners of the province in the face of overwhelming heartbreak.

“Until now many may mistakenly have doubted the ability of South Africa to cope with a disaster of this magnitude and the scale of the rescue effort it would require. But the considerable effort on the ground has been phenomenal and the involvement of such a large rescue community has been nothing short of remarkable,” he asserts.

Craig Grindell, managing director of Netcare 911, notes that resources were pulled together from across the country in a fairly short space of time. “The resources represented various agencies and organisations such as the South African Defence Force, a number of provincial and private emergency medical services, the South African Police Service as well as many private search and rescue teams, among others.

“Those on the ground say that this is one of the biggest rescue operations ever seen in South Africa – even greater than the rescue effort launched in January 1984, when Cyclone Domoina wrought havoc all the way from Mozambique to Swaziland. As many as 242 people succumbed during that tropical storm which brought the greatest deluge of rain in a century, with raging floodwaters leaving chaos and destruction in their wake,” he adds.

During the most recent floods countless more lives have been lost but many have been saved, not only by rescue teams but also by ordinary members of the public.

“Since Monday, 11 April, South Africa has pulled together one of the largest rescue efforts in recent memory locally, with the general consensus being that never before have we seen such a large team of rescuers working in tandem,” notes Grindell.

“On the aeromedical side considerable expertise has come to the fore with military, SAPS, private medical helicopters and fixed wing aircraft having been deployed. People from all walks of life, including the young up and coming to well known, highly experienced rescuers have joined the rescue effort. Support was also forthcoming from SAPS and private canine rescue teams from around the country as well as from experienced lifeguards and ordinary members of the public who have stepped forward to volunteer their services.

“Support initiatives by various NGOs such as Meals on Wheels, together with community involvement have been wholehearted and overwhelming and have provided tremendous relief aid, which includes anything from supplying refreshments for the rescuers to getting water, food and perishables to those who have been impacted by the flood. Amidst the tragic circumstances there has been a most incredible response countrywide,” says Grindell.

In his address to the nation, President Cyril Ramaphosa called for ‘all hands on deck’ in the wake of the floods. The men and women who left their families in their hundreds to join in the rescue and reconnaissance efforts pre-empted this call from the very outset. They are an inspiration and a reminder of all that is good and just. Sadly, their rescue mission has since become one of recovery in order to help provide closure to the loved ones of those who have been swept away by the floods.

“Head of coastal operations at Netcare 911, Gary Paul and his colleagues – who have been hard at work playing a supportive and collaborative role along with the multiple other agencies in the search, rescue and retrieval operations throughout this time – are full of admiration of the ‘family’ of rescuers who are working as one in the most difficult of circumstances.

Paul says the Netcare 911 team is proud to be part of the men and women who start their days with the South African anthem as they enter the field to offer a glimmer of closure, humanity and support to those affected. There is little talk or thought of sacrifice as for them this is simply what they do, without hesitation or question.

Netcare and Netcare 911 will continue to work as part of the team, and to offer medical services as the situation unfolds. For us it is a true honour and a privilege to stand alongside those at the coalface of the rescue and retrieval efforts who are demonstrating the true strength of humanity,” concludes Dr Friedland.

Issued by:            MNA on behalf of Netcare and Netcare 911
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Meggan Saville, Estene Lotriet-Vorster and Clementine Forsthofer
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
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