Christmas Eve flood survivor shares harrowing ordeal in Ladysmith

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A young mother, Rozel Malaton, describes how she survived the Christmas Eve flood in Ladysmith. Malaton lost her two children, 9-year-old Brooklyn and 3-year-old Kayle, along with her fiancé, Kenneth Ryan when their rental was engulfed by the floodwaters.

During the onset of the flood, as she and Ryan were wrapping Christmas presents, Malaton felt the ground shaking. In the ensuing chaos, they each grabbed a child before being swept away.

Along the flood’s path, they clung to a pillar at a tunnel, but Malaton lost her grip on her family. She survived by holding onto a tree for four hours until a search and rescue member found her downstream around half-past 3.

Malaton describes the scene, “Along the flood, I was holding onto my son, Brooklyn was still on the mattress, and Kenneth was trying to hold on to me. And then at the tunnel, we went into the pillar there and that’s when I lost hold of them. And luckily, fortunate for me, I held onto a tree, and after a couple of hours – like around half past 3 a search and rescue member found me. Like 3 kilometres downstream.”


In the immediate aftermath of the floods, it was announced that six people had died. In the days thereafter, rain and full rivers hampered search efforts, but several bodies have been found over the past two days.

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has confirmed that the death toll from the devastating Christmas Eve flash floods in Ladysmith is 22.

Search and Rescue teams meanwhile, continue to search for community members who are reportedly still missing.

KwaZulu-Natal police have deployed almost all of their search and rescue and K9 teams, as well as a helicopter, to take part in the search.

They are being assisted by emergency services, the NSRI, and NGOs.

Police spokesperson Robert Netshiunda says the search continues today. “An unconfirmed number of four victims are still outstanding, so we continue with the search operation. The mobile command post will move further downstream on Saturday to facilitate the deployment of rescuers. The police will provide further updates as and when new recoveries are made.”

More heavy rainfall

The South African Weather Service says many parts of KwaZulu-Natal may be in for heavy rainfall throughout the New Year’s long weekend.

A warning had been issued that heavy rainfall may occur from Friday afternoon over the Durban metro, Pietermaritzburg, Estcourt, Mooi River, Newcastle, Kokstad and Port Shepstone.

Forecaster Wisani Maluleke warned that business owners and residents in low-lying areas should be vigilant because the heavy rain may lead to flooding.

“Tomorrow we have sixty percent showers and thunderstorms in the southern part of the province and thirty percent in the northern part of the province. Looking into the weekend into Monday we have sixty percent chances of showers and thunderstorms and they may become severe and we urge everyone to exercise caution on the roads as this may lead to flooding.”