SAAF Oryx performs difficult flood rescue in Mozambique

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After a Mozambican military helicopter failed to rescue a stranded Mozambican from a flooded river, a South African Air Force (SAAF) Oryx crew managed to finally hoist the stranded man to safety in difficult and dangerous conditions.

The rescue mission took place on the afternoon of Friday 10 March, the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) said. Due to heavy rains amid Tropical Storm Freddy, a local community member found himself trapped in the flooded Lurio river. Fellow citizens were unable to rescue him and so the Forcas Armadas de Defesa de Mocambique (FADM) were called to assist.

A FADM Mi-17 helicopter was despatched but after many attempts a successful rescue proved impossible. The SAMIM Aviation Component was then called on to assist, and this request was approved by Force Commander Major General Xolani Mankayi.

A South African Air Force (SAAF) Oryx and its crew found the man in the middle of the river, roughly 60 km southwest of Pemba. Under what was described as severely difficult circumstances, Flight Engineer Sergeant Raphiri was hoisted down and managed to lift the man to safety after two attempts. The flight crew had to be extremely careful that the rotor wash did not push the man off the rock he was standing on. The rescue happened after 17:00 and the crew had to be mindful of fading light as well as very strong river currents and high winds.

The flood victim had been trapped in the river for around 24 hours and was suffering from hypothermia. An Air Medical Team (AMET) comprising Dr O Khan, Lieuteant DC Mmitseng, and Sergeant XC Thabethe took over once the man was in the aircraft and provided the necessary medical care. Further medical treatment was administered at the SAMIM Level 2 hospital.

“Accolades must be given to the quick reaction from the aircrew and AMET and their professional conduct during this extreme difficult technical rescue. The aircrew consisted of Major JA Augustyn (Oryx Commander), Captain R Mothoa (Co-pilot), WO2 A Prince (Flight Engineer) and Sergeant Raphiri.

“SAMIM will continue working with FADM to assist the people of Mozambique and attain requisite peace and stability,” stated Lieutenant Phumela Veldtman, Information Operations Officer for SAMIM Headquarters.

Tropical Storm Freddy has killed more than 100 people, injured scores and left a trail of destruction across southern Africa after hitting the continent for the second time in a month. The World Meteorological Organisation said Freddy could be the longest lasting tropical cyclone, hitting Mozambique for a second time on 12 March.