Durban - Despite having no formal training in water or rope rescue, private security officers from around Durban risked their lives to save residents that were left stranded during the flooding which was caused by heavy rains.
Speaking to IOL on Wednesday, officials from Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa), Marshall Security and KZN VIP all said that their employees worked extremely long shifts, conducting rescues as state emergency services were stretched.
As the city was submerged in garbage, sand and raging waters, private security officials had to think on their feet in order to rescue people trapped inside flooded homes or other buildings.
Rusa officers were seen in waist-deep water using a make-shift rope rescue system to help residents trapped inside their flooded home in Canelands, north of Durban, near the Umdloti river.
Rusa’s Prem Balram said that their officers do not have relevant training in terms of water and rope rescue as they are a private security firm.
“It was just at that moment, we were trying to save people when nobody else could go in those (flooded) areas. We have paramedics at our company but the rest of us, we were just helping out. We were not trained for that.
“People were sitting on their roofs, there were babies trapped in houses so we just had to do what we could,” Balram said, adding that staff worked for 36 hours straight.
Balram said around five Rusa officers were injured during rescue operations. He said 22 bodies have been found so far during recovery operations.
Marshall Security’s Tyron Powell said that his team worked long hours to help rescue people, divert traffic and tend to whatever other calls they received.
A Marshall Security official who was on the ground during operations, Andreas Mathias, said that officers had to make decisions on the ground as the situation worsened.
“The volume of work was overwhelming, there was no way that any facility could cope with that amount. It's not only the security companies that helped, it was neighbourhood watches as well, they were instrumental in the whole thing,” he said.
Gareth Naidoo from KZN VIP, based in Durban, said that the situation was “out of control” and his team “tried everything they could to help”.
But innovation did not leave the door when heavy rains were pouring, as Naidoo said that in some cases, security officers had to use a trauma board tied up to their vehicle in order to rescue people from flooded areas.
“We were in Phoenix, we assisted in parts of KwaMashu, parts of Inanda and also near the old airport area (Durban south). We had our response teams who worked normal 12 hour shifts but they ended up doing 15 hour shifts. But in areas where teams were conducting rescues, it was up to 18 hours.
“It was honestly quite traumatic for me. I haven’t seen something so bad happen in my life and we never expected that amount of damage to be caused,” Naidoo told IOL.