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Residents, workers, and passers-by stopped to watch the dramatic rescue of two vagrants, caught in the raging waters of the Hennops in Centurion after the river burst its banks, overflowing into roads and cutting off traffic on Monday.
Police divers pulled the two men out after they had been trapped for about four hours while the water swirled around them.
A man referred to only as Richard was caught under the Gautrain bridge near the SuperSport Stadium, while another, known only as Nxungwana, climbed a tree and waited on the highest branch to be rescued.
The men were pulled out of the water 30 minutes apart just after 2pm.
When Richard was brought to shore in the police divers’ rescue canoe, he was shaking violently, and had to be treated for shock, trauma and hypothermia.
“He is in a stable condition, but he is very cold,” ER24 general manager Peter van der Spuy said.
He explained that the intravenous fluids Richard was being given were to raise his body temperature.
He had also been wrapped in a blanket and warm jacket.
Van der Spuy also said that Richard, who had been standing in knee-deep water, was suffering from extreme exhaustion.
His efforts to keep himself erect and withstand the strong current had left him with low muscle tone.
“His body used up a lot of oxygen and depleted the system,” he said.
Richard was taken to the Kalafong Hospital after being treated on the scene.
Nxungwana, who had managed to keep largely dry, was treated and allowed to go.
Petros Mahlangu and his family, who were also caught in the flash floods, had to abandon their car and run for the safety of dry land.
He, his wife and their seven-month-old-son had been sitting in the car near a bridge on Lenchen North, waiting for the rain to subside, when Mahlangu realised water was flowing under the car.
“I tried not to panic for the sake of my wife and son.”
Mahlangu collected their cellphones and his wallet, and guided his wife out of the car and through the waist-high water.
“As a boy I spent hours herding cattle, and I was often caught in flooded rivers, so I knew I should walk across the river upstream, so that it did not carry us away.”
The effect of the flooding of the river had a ripple effect across Centurion, affecting numerous roads, including Lenchen North and South, Blackwood, Witstinkhout and West.
Traffic congestion was reported from John Vorster Drive, across Lyttelton and the Old Johannesburg Road.
Guests were trapped in the Centurion Lake Hotel for a period when the river flooded the road.
The floodwaters also sent car owners and drivers scrambling to move their vehicles to safety.
In Joburg, two men and a woman were rescued from a stream in Naledi, Soweto, on Monday.
The trio were swept away by a strong current as they were trying to cross the river, emergency services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said.
They were rescued by residents who had been passing by the river.