Lulu Dube and Nonhlanhla Chili receive mourners for 14-year-old Nomthandazo Chili, who was swept away in floods in Folweni, on Tuesday. They still hope they will find her alive. Picture: NQOBILE MBONAMBI

Fourteen-year-old Nomthandazo Chili clung to a tree as the flooded Golokodo River’s water raged beneath her on Tuesday morning.

Helpless to respond to her terrified screams for help, her friends watched from the shore in horror.

There was a loud crack and the tree’s trunk gave way to a mighty gust of wind.

Nomthandazo was gone.

Yesterday, her mother, Nonhlanhla Chili, and her aunt, Lulu Dube, sat on the floor of their modest living room, in rural Folweni, to receive mourners.

More than 24 hours after she had disappeared beneath those waters, Nomthandazo had still not been found.

The curtains were drawn and the women spoke in hushed tones, but they refused to give up hope. had not yet lit a candle for the girl’s spirit.

“We still have hope,” her mother whispered.

Nomthandazo was one of the victims of the violent storm that ravaged KwaZulu Natal this week.

Police Search and Rescue units and other emergency services spent several hours searching for her, and five others others who were yesterday still missing but they could not locate them.

They are expected to resume their efforts today.

At their home, Nomthandazo’s mother was too distraught to recount what had happened.

Neighbour Jabulisiwe Khuzwayo said Nomthandazo, who was in Grade 9, and her friends were told to leave school early because of the storm.

Their homes were on the other side of a bridge over the river but as they approached it, they saw it was flooded.

“The water was running over the bridge,” Khuzwayo said.

Nomthandazo’s friends were hesitant to try and cross the bridge, but Nomthandazo insisted on crossing.

She wanted to get home because a neighbour had recently died and she wanted to visit his family.

So she and a friend waded to the other side.


“She was shouting to the others that it was safe to come over, when water from the road washed underneath her feet,” Khuzwayo said.

She had been holding her friend’s hand but the momentum of the water ripped them apart and Nomthandazo fell into the river.

She hung on to to the tree for a few moments before it gave way.

In Umlazi, Lindokuhle Kweyama was also clinging on to the hope that her daughter would be found alive after the floods.

Little Okuhle’s nanny had managed to get three other children in her care to safety when a river near their creche in D section was flooded on Tuesday.

But the 22-month-old was washed away.

“My child has just started living here, it hasn't even been a month. She started living here on the 19th,” Kweyama said yesterday. “I usually call her nanny to find out if the child is fine but yesterday she didn't answer her phone. I started calling her from around 10am and she wasn't answering”.

She said she could only start processing what had happened when she found her child.