The recent floods at Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre were devastating to say the least, but it’s in moments like these that people band together, reminding us of what it means to be part of a community that truly cares for one another. After sending out a call for help, we were inundated with donations from the get-go. We also met some incredible people and heard some heartwarming stories. The one below is from the McDonald family, who managed to save not only themselves, but all their pets as well.
“It was about 3:30am on Wednesday the 18th, when we were woken up by a lot of noise. My husband got up to see what was going on and when he opened the front door a river of water flowed into the house. We acted quickly, gathering the children, my elderly mother and our pets. We headed to the laundry because it was the highest point we could think of, although the water was rising fast in there too.
We placed the animals – 2 dogs, 2 guinea pigs, 2 cats and the hamster – in cooler boxes which we then stowed on the top shelves to keep them safe. I tried to save the fish as well, but my husband said, “Leave them, they can swim.”
Before we knew it the water had risen even further, and we soon realized that we’d have to seek alternative shelter if we wanted to survive. We helped my 78 year old mother climb through the window, but once on the other side she found herself chest deep in water. She can’t swim, so we had to move really quickly at that point. With my husband pushing and me pulling, somehow we all managed to climb to safety in a wild Marula tree. Everyone found somewhere to sit or stand, even the pets.
We clung to the branches for all we were worth. The children started complaining that their feet were numb and getting crampy, and the only advice I could offer was that they try and move their legs or change position.
I was so afraid that the tree would give way under our collective weight, but thankfully it didn’t. I’m not sure how long we sat dead still, wet and cold in that tree – maybe 2 or 3 hours. I remember my daughter asking if I was shivering because I was cold or scared. I tried to put her mind at ease by telling her that it was just my body. We shared our tree with a colony of ants, or perhaps they thought they were sharing their tree with us. Either way, they weren’t very happy about it. We were all covered in bites by these little creatures that were also just trying to survive.
As we perched in the tree we watched our furniture and other belongings floating by, and we coudn’t do a thing about it. Our tractor and Landrover were both completely submerged beneath the water as well.
The water level eventually started dropping again, so we were able to climb back into the safety of our laundry. The time spent in the laundry felt like forever, but at long last a helicopter arrived to fly our eight workers, my husband and I, my mother, our son and daughter, and our seven pets to safety.
We lost just about everything. All we managed to save were a few special items, such as my mom’s precious ornament of baby Jesus in his crib, which had survived the floods without so much as a scratch.”