Kruger Park and the surrounding areas not seen heavy floods since the year 2000. On Tuesday 18 Jan 2012, they have arrived in a big way and have surpassed the 2000 levels already. End of the world as per the Mayans? I don’t think so. Hundred year flood? Could well be… and much to the shock of tourists on safari in various parts of the park and neighboring game reserves. Lodges built on river banks and below 100 year flood levels are sustaining much damage by the immensely swollen rivers around the region. Whilst this is a huge blow to the region from a tourism perspective, the industry players are all working together to make sure that all tourists who are en route to their safari are looked after in the best possible way.
The Hoedspruit weather station, close to the Kruger Park’s gates, measured 267mm of rain between 8am on Tuesday and 8am yesterday. A further 100mm of rain fell in six hours yesterday, between 8am and 2pm. SA Weather Service forecasters predict a 60% chance of rain today, 30% chance of rain tomorrow and no rain on Saturday. Heavy rain is classified as more than 50mm of rain in 24 hours.
This incredible amount of rain has swollen the Sabie, Crocodile and many other rivers in the greater Kruger area. Some SAN Parks rest camps and many private game lodges have been cut off from the outside world with various river bridges underwater and huge road damage in most parts of the park. Reports have been coming in from the northern parts of the park, including Phalaborwa and Hoedspruit, all the way down to Komatipoort and even Swaziland where the Usutu river is absolutely bursting. See pics below.
Water levels in Lower Sabie had reached the fence at the edge of the camp site where about 30 people were evacuated yesterday. The Skukuza and Letaba camps have been cut off. Staff accommodation in both camps and the generator and petrol station in Letaba were also flooded. Part of the road between Satara and Orpen has been closed. Roads around Hoedspruit have suffered huge damage. The road between Letaba and Phalaborwa was closed most of yesterday but reopened in the late afternoon. The Crocodile Bridge gate and Giriyondo border post have been closed as well as the Biyamiti, Shimuwini and Talamati bush camps.
SA National Parks spokesman Reynold Thakhuli said yesterday: “We had six tourists that went on a game drive and they got stuck (on Tuesday) night at one of the picnic sites.” The group were airlifted to safety by one of the park’s helicopters as the rain continued to pour down. “They had minor injuries and are now receiving medical attention,” he said.
The rain, which began on Tuesday night and only began to ease off late yesterday afternoon, has forced authorities to close gates and evacuate guests from flooded camps as roads turned into rivers. Outside the park, flooding in the Hoedspruit area has left many others stranded.
Liza de Vente, 26, is stuck at a farmhouse near Hoedspruit without electricity and clean water. Late yesterday afternoon De Vente said the Blyde River that flows through the property was already 2metres higher than it had been during the last flood in 2000. De Vente expects to be stranded at the farm for the next two days, but that depends on whether or not the rain stops.
The extent of the damage caused by the flooding is not yet known.
Here is a short video showing the flooded Letaba Rest Camp.
If you are planning a safari to Kruger and surrounds, or are already in the area, check here for updates:
SAN Parks website has media releases outlining road closures and latest reports
KrugerSightings.com has plenty of the latest pics and info
or follow them on Twitter @latestkruger
Image credits: News24.com and Shane Raw (Swaziland)
Reports from: News24.com and The Sowetan