SA National Parks has started assessing the damage left by floods in the Kruger National Park.

Its CEO, David Mabunda, said the floods were an “infrequent event that tests the resilience of the ecosystem . It is not doom and gloom”.

He said much had been learned from the 2000 floods and one of the lessons was that more people flocked to the park following such events.

“We are disappointed with the damage but we are also happy that nature has replenished itself. In fact, it is the other way around, as we saw with the floods in 2000, when we had people flocking to the park to enjoy the beauty of the environment after the floods.”

According to Mabunda, the torrential rains were beneficial in that they hydrated dry areas in the park and aquatic organisms were able to recolonise, thanks to the unusual conditions.

He said 80 people – 10 staff and 70 tourists – had been rescued over the past four days. The only serious incident involved six foreign tourists – four Italians and two English – who were washed away in a car. They had been sent to a Nelspruit hospital for treatment.

Some tourists were trapped in their cars overnight but their families were kept updated about their situation until they were rescued yesterday morning.

About 26 tourists in the northern part of the park remained cut off, but were being rerouted to safety.

According to the head of disaster management at the park, Blake Schraader, Kruger Park – which handles about 1800 guests a night – is 80% functional and all affected guest bookings have been rerouted to other major camps that are operational.

“Engineers have estimated the park should be fully operational within the next six months as the damage was not as severe as it was during the floods in 2000 when it took almost 10 months for the park to be fully operational.”

National Parks tourism manager Glenn Phillips said Kruger was open for business, saying the floods would not affect future revenue.

“There was minimal damage to tourism infrastructure. There are 13 camps that are still not fully accessible but our major camps have not been affected,” he said.

National Parks spokesman Rey Thakuli said the camps that have restricted access are Skukuza (accessible from Satara), Lower Sabie (accessible from Lower Sabie), Olifants (accessible from Letaba), Satara ( accessible from Orpen and Skukuza), Biyamiti, Talamiti, Balule, Shimuweni, Sirheni, Imbali Concession Lodge, Tamboti as well as Tshokwane picnic site.

A woman at the Klaserie Private Game Reserve outside the Kruger National Park described the flood as “horrendous”. “Our dam burst and we were flooded. We had a raging river in front of us. It was very scary,” said the woman, who refused to be named.

She said she was lucky because her house was on high ground near a mountain.

But an 80-year-old woman who lived at a lodge closer to the river had been stuck in a tree in her pyjamas early on Wednesday waiting for a helicopter to rescue her. “It took them five hours to bring a chopper,” she said.

Article Credit: Sipho Masombuka on TimesLive www.timeslive.co.za

Photo Credit: Liza Van DeVenter/Foto24

Photo Caption: This flood-damaged bridge in the Kruger National Park resulted in some tourists being cut off from the main camp. Park officials rescued 80 people and did not report any casualties