Six people, including the driver, are feared dead after a Toyota Hilux double cab vehicle was swept off a flooded bridge on Gweru River along the Gweru-Matobo Road yesterday morning.
By last night, the Gweru District Civil Protection Unit (CPU) and the police sub-aqua unit were still searching for the missing people, thought to be four men and two women.
The vehicle was still to be located although the compressor it was towing was found dumped on the riverbank, a few kilometres downstream.
Midlands provincial police spokesperson Inspector Emmanuel Mahoko last night said search parties spent the whole day yesterday searching for the missing people and the vehicle, to no avail.
“The District Civil Protection Unit and the sub-aqua unit spent the whole day searching for the missing six people believed to be four male and two female adults who were swept away by the flooded Gweru River this morning. The search continued until this evening, but no one has been found yet,” said Insp Mahoko.
He said according to a witness, the Toyota Hilux was towing a mining compressor when it was swept away.
“Norlan Mupfiga who was driving towards Matobo found the river flooded and parked his vehicle hoping the water levels would subside.. The white Toyota Hilux which was behind him tried to drive past the flooded river bridge and it was swept away. Mr Mupfiga rushed to make a police report at Mtapa Police Station,” said Insp Mahoko.
He said the CPU and police sub-aqua unit went to the bridge and started searching for the vehicle and its occupants.
Insp Mahoko warned motorists and pedestrians against crossing rivers in flood or low-level bridges under water.
Government yesterday warned people against crossing rivers in flood following a number of incidents of people being swept away or marooned on islands midstream.
In a statement, Local Government and Public Works Acting Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere implored citizens to be cautions and exercise patience by avoiding crossing rivers in flood.
“This rainy season has been characterised by incessant numerous incidents and activated rescue efforts where citizens tried to cross rivers in flood and were marooned across the country,” said Minister Muswere.
He said there were several incidents of people swept away and paid tribute to those who helped rescue them.
Referring to seven people rescued in two incidents along the Runde River, he said: “The Ministry would like to proffer the appreciation and gratitude to the various partners who immediately contributed in the rescue efforts namely the Air Force of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe National Army, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, and Honourable Members of Parliament for Chiredzi North (Cde Roy Bhila) and Chiredzi West (Cde Farai Musikavanhu), Tongaat Hullet, the media, local leadership and members of the community. Your hard work, dedication and team work is unparalleled,” said Minister Muswere.
“Furthermore we implore all stakeholders, parliamentarians, councillors, traditional leaders and civil protection structures to intensify education awareness initiatives to empower citizens with the requisite information on the dangers of crossing rivers in flood. Accordingly, as the downpours remain unabated we appeal to all citizens to be cautious and stop crossing rivers and flooded bridges. Be patient and stay at home. We care for you.”
The country has been receiving significant amounts of rains that have seen some rivers overflowing their banks and covering bridges with flood waters.
Seven people were rescued last Friday by the Air Force of Zimbabwe while four others are feared dead after being marooned at the confluence of the Tokwe and Runde rivers in Chiredzi, or further along the Runde River, following a sudden spilling of a weir upstream.
Those rescued are a woman and her three daughters whose other two children were swept away. The police sub-aqua unit is still searching for them. Others who are missing are Kundai Chikwava (18) and her 11 month-old daughter Shantell Hungwe.
After rescuing the four, the helicopter was sent to pick up three men trapped in the Runde in the Shindi area of Chivi.
Last month, three people were killed when their pirate taxi was swept away when crossing a river in flood in Zvishavane.
Police identified the three as Tariro Makwa (24), Aneno Manduku (39) and Gertrude Mudhonga (9
Midlands Police spokesperson, Inspector Ethel Mukwende said the pirate taxi, a Toyota Noah, had 10 people on board, when the driver tried to cross the river.
Asst Insp Mukwende said the driver attempted to cross the river, resulting in the car being swept away with the 10 people on board.