Durban: It took almost 15 hours to retrieve the bodies of cousins Mckaylan Naidoo and Mateo Judeayne Pillay after their homes collapsed following a mudslide.
Naidoo, 21, a driver's assistant for a courier company, and Mateo, 6, a grade R pupil at Hartley Road Primary School, died after a mudslide destroyed their homes in Lotus Road, Asherville, last Tuesday. They lived in attached houses.
Mckaylan's mother, Melanie, said he got her and his brother Nischaylan, 13, up at around 1am.
"He told us that water was seeping into the house. Despite our efforts to collect and dispose of the water, it began entering our home fast. Mckaylan tried to sweep the water out the back door but it did not work.
"Mateo's dad, who is my brother-in-law, and Mckaylan tried to open the manholes outside but they struggled. Mckaylan then returned inside, closed my bedroom door and placed towels on the floor to prevent the water from seeping in," she said.
Melanie said the family continued to sweep the water out of the lounge but it made no difference.
"Mckaylan's last words were ‘mummy look at the road, it's raining so heavy’. He then went into his room to get his phone. I was in the lounge and Nischaylan was in the dining room. I heard a loud noise and the next thing I remember was waking up outside. Nischaylan was also on the ground. My brother-in-law helped me to my feet.
"My house was destroyed. It was covered with sand and trees. I couldn't see Mckayalan and screamed for him. My child was trapped underneath the house. My brother-in-law said Mateo was also trapped," she said.
She said family, friends and search and rescue units, who also arrived at the home, dug the area for almost 15 hours until they found the two bodies.
Naidoo said her son enjoyed spending time with his family and loved soccer, fishing and being a part of the Dasavathara Vishvam bhajan group.
“From age four, these activities were important to him. If he was not fishing with his dad, who is now late, you would find him playing soccer. Fridays were reserved for bhajan practice. As a child, he used to sing while drumming on coffee tins, pots and pans,’ she said.
She said her son lived for the moment.
“After his dad drowned while fishing in 2016, we stopped making plans for the future. We were grateful to get up every day and go about our activities. We realised life is too short and we lived for the moment. I will continue to do as I know my son would want me to," she said.
Mateo’s dad, Mathemugan Pillay, said he was almost at his son's bedroom when part of their house was destroyed.
“I was trying to remove the sand at the back door when I heard trees break. I ran to the front of the house and told my wife, Geraldine, who was standing by the door, to get out of the house. I rushed to get Mateo from his room, but it was too late.
“He was our only child and was the light of our lives. Mateo was quiet and attached to his mother. He loved playing with his cars and watching TV. He started school this year and after school, he would tell us what he had learnt. Mateo was the best child a parent could ask for and we can never get him back," he said.
Mrs S Mall, Mateo’s teacher, said he never hesitated to give or show love to his classmates.
"There is nothing that fills the heart with more joy than seeing a child in your care thrive, and Mateo showed all the signs of a thriving child. Uninhibited, he would sing along enthusiastically to nursery rhymes in his high little voice. He always elicited smiles and laughs.
"I will treasure the small, but not insignificant moments that we shared as a teacher and a pupil. I am grateful that I was able to spend so much time with him when he was at his best and brightest," Mall said.
Naidoo and Pillay’s funerals were held separately at relative’s homes in Asherville and Phoenix on Friday.