Fishing boat tragedy: Four dead, one missing

By Henri du Plessis, Bronwynne Jooste and Murray Williams

Staff Reporters

The lone survivor of the fishing boat tragedy in Mossel Bay on Monday is out of danger and recuperating.

But one man is still missing at sea, police spokesperson Malcolm Pojie reported on Monday.

Four fishermen drowned after their small wooden fishing boat capsized and was smashed by a monster wave at Mossel Bay.

The storm, which lashed Cape Town early on Monday, had moved on to the Southern Cape coast by midday, causing the build-up of huge 7.8m to 8m swells and hurricane-strength 108km/h winds, said Craig Lambinon of the National Sea Rescue Institute.

The old-style wooden fishing boat, the Mandy, was just off the point at Mossel Bay, not far from the safety of the harbour, when it was struck by one of the huge swells rolling on to the coast, Lambinon said.

The six crew were dumped into the rough sea.

"A police launch was out at sea at the same time and rushed to help. They were able to save one man who was reported to be in a stable condition in hospital, being treated for hypothermia," Lambinon said.

"A search by the police, the NSRI and the private helicopter of Mossel Bay businessman Kobus Krause was launched immediately, but the weather made life extremely difficult for the rescuers," he said.

Lambinon said four bodies were found washed ashore not long after the tragedy.

"The first body washed ashore at De Bakke and then three more washed ashore at Dias Beach," he said.

"All four men were pronounced dead at the scene. A search for the missing man continued until sunset."

Lambinon said heartbroken families of the dead, as well as the owner of the boat and the fishing company, were receiving trauma counselling.

The Mandy was also washed up on Dias Beach and smashed by the pounding surf.

On Tuesday, the fifth body had still not been found.

The wind in the Strand also claimed the life of Anathi Maqetseba, 5, when a massive bluegum tree was blown on to the building in which she and her mother were sleeping. Trees were also sent crashing down at a caravan park in the Strand.

Keith Moir, a forecaster at the weather station at Cape Town International Airport, said a low pressure system which had developed to the north-west of Cape Town had caused the strong winds, sending air rushing in from the south-east.

The wind which hit the Strand area would have come over the mountains above Gordon's Bay, plunged downwards and hit the ground in a wave, making for extremely turbulent weather, he explained.

Charlotte Powell, disaster management spokesperson, said Strand, Gordon's Bay and Somerset West were the hardest hit in on Monday's storm.

Wind speeds reached up to 100km in the coastal towns, and 75km in the inland areas.

Niek Koegelenberg, a forecaster at South African Weather's Cape Town office, said the "worst was over" and the severe weather conditions are set to subside by on Wednesday.

Disaster management centres in the city and the Overberg said they would remain on high alert until then.


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