Emergency search and rescue teams recovered the bodies of seven people yesterday morning, bringing the death toll to nine. Later in the afternoon five more bodies were retrieved from the river, raising the number to 14.
As the mission continues along the river for the missing people, Renqe recalled how she held her three-month-old baby while her mother was holding her other child as they stood in the river, shortly after a storm at about 5pm.
A relative of one of the missing people said some of the congregants told her that it rained for about 30 minutes on Saturday afternoon and they had waited for the rain to stop before they could get into the water for the baptism service.
Renqe said they stood on top of rocks and it was shallow but later she and other congregants realised they were in trouble.
“The water suddenly became strong and it was all around us. The people standing on the side [in the water] were in shallower water so they instructed me to throw the baby and I did. One of them caught her but right after that my mother who had my three-year-old and I were swept away,” she said.
“The water was so strong. As the water was taking me, there was a broken tree floating in the water; I held on to it. I flowed with the tree further down the river. I was breathing heavily as I was scared.
“The tree took me to a [river] bank next to the Grayston bridge [about 2km away from baptism spot] where I was able to get out. I could not see my mother and the water was moving very fast.
“As I got out of the water, I thought I would see my mother and my daughter but I didn’t. “One of the congregants found me at the river bank and helped me walk away as I was injured in my right leg. We rushed to where we had gathered [before the flash flood] and the man who was helping me called for assistance…”
Renge also suffered bruises in her face, neck and other parts of the body.
She told of further heartbreak on hearing that the congregant who caught her baby was also swept away.
The priest was rescued near the Grayston bridge as well.
“When I found out that the priest was found, I hoped that he would be with my three month-old baby. When I got to him, he just looked at me and said, ‘ngiyaxolisa’ [I am sorry]. also I just swept knew away, that”my said child Renge.
She said since Saturday afternoon, she had hoped that her mother and children would be found alive.
“It is only hitting me now. I spent the night without them. I hardly slept, thinking about them. All I want is to find them. We have been sitting here since morning, hoping we would get some answers. I don’t think I will ever be the same after this,” said Renge.
Johannesburg EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said a group of 33 congregants were performing a ritual at the stream along Corlett Drive when a storm broke.