By Esther de Villiers
A helicopter was forced to come to the rescue of 61 Eastern Cape primary school learners after the Western Cape storms trapped them at the Cango Mountain Resort on Tuesday afternoon.
Emergency food and water supplies were dropped from the air for the Aliwal North Primary School learners — as well as their 10 teachers — whose excursion to the Little Karoo has taken a dramatic turn.
A mere 10 km away from the world-famous Cango Caves, the resort is also close to the Raubenheimer Dam and Klein-leroux River, which cuts through the mountain property.
When heavy downpours caused the dam to burst and the river to flow at breakneck speed, it became clear that the visitors would not be able to budge.
All routes back to Oudtshoorn had been submerged and turned into no-go zones.
With plenty of beds for the kids, they were able to stay dry and comfy. However, concern soon mounted over the lack of food and drinking water.
Enter Oudtshoorn Municipal Disaster Management, who kicked into action by delivering food and water to an Air Mercy Helicopter.
According to a statement released late on Tuesday by Oudtshoorn Municipality, the children will be able to go home on Wednesday.
“Our thoughts are with the schoolchildren and teachers as they await the opportunity to return to their homes. Weather permitting, they should be able to safely cross over by tomorrow, 27 September.”
Cango Mountain Resort maintenance manager Daniel Mothapo told Scrolla.Africa the kids were quite troubled when they first realised they were cut off from civilisation.
“We managed to cross the river with tractors and ensured the whole group could safely be accommodated in our dorm for the night. The helicopter arrived around 5.10 pm and went straight to the spot where they were stranded, its food packages were received with great excitement.
Mothapo said they expected a low of around 10 degrees Celsius tonight — positively balmy for this semi-arid area. “It was just supposed to be a one-day visit, and some of the kids were crying when told they would not be seeing their mommies tonight.
“The teachers were very understanding and worked with us to get the message across that nature cannot be controlled.”
If all goes according to plan, the youngsters should be en route to their Eastern Cape hometown of Aliwal North by mid-morning on Wednesday. There they will be reunited with their families on the banks of another raging watercourse: the mighty Orange River.
Pictured above: The Air Mercy Helicopter drops sustenance with a school group marooned outside of Oudtshoorn in the Southern Cape
Image source: Cango Mountain Resort