Villagers yearn for closure after floods

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Nthatuoa Koeshe

“I JUST want to see her body and give her a dignified burial then maybe I will finally find closure,” Mabokang Morake says in a trembling voice.

Ms Morake’s daughter, Bokang is one of the victims of the Thaba Tseka floods disaster that killed three people on 22 March this year. The incident occurred when their taxi was swept away by the rising waters as the driver attempted to cross a flooded river.

The taxi had 16 people on board and only eight were rescued while the three people were confirmed dead after their bodies were recovered. Another five are feared dead as they have not been found to date.

The fruitless searches for the missing five have been torturous for their families.

During a recent tour of Linakeng village with the Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) where counsellors offered free therapy to the villagers, it was evident that the horror of the incident is still fresh in the villagers’ minds.

In an interview during the tour, Morake constantly buries her teary face in a blanket until she regains composure but the red swelling eyes denote deep-seated distress.

“Bokang had called me the previous day and told me that she was coming to visit me. The following day I waited at the bus stop and meet her half way but minuets turned into hours until someone told us there was a taxi which had been swept into the river,” she said trying hard to hold back her tears.

The 23-year-old Bokang had left her year-old son in the care of her in-laws to visit her mother but she never reached her destination.

Bokang is one of the five that are still missing. Her traumatised mother says she has been distraught from the fateful day when she arrived at Linakeng River bridge to find fellow villagers rescuing some of the villagers but Bokang was not one of the survivors.

“When we got to the bridge we found people there already helping some of the commuters but Bokang was not among the rescued.

“I tried going around looking for my daughter but she was not there. She was gone and there was nothing anyone could do.

“Days after the incident some ministers visited us and gave out boats to use in the search for the bodies but there is no joy,” Ms Morake said.

She told the Lesotho Times that since that day, she has suffered emotionally and physically and says she feels a piercing pain on the side of her waist.

“I just want to see my daughter’s body and give her a dignified burial then maybe I will finally find closure,” Ms Morake said as tears finally broke out of her eyes.

For the 61-year-old, Matlohang Mokoaleli the tale is different after her daughter’s body was found days after the accident in Qacha’s Nek district.

Her grandson is still missing along with another one year-old boy, a 23-year-old woman and two other men.

Yet it is just that solace alone as the daughter, Nts’abeng was on her way home from labour where she had just given birth when disaster struck.

She never saw her grandchild.

“I never got to see my grandchild and even though my daughter was later found my heart still bleeds daily when I think of her,” Mokoaleli said.

Ms Mokoaleli said when they were called to identify the body, her heart was torn at the state in which she was.

“Her skin was pale and it was devastating to see her in that state,” she said.

Ms Mokoaleli said she did not have hope that the body of her grandson would ever be found.

The councillor of Linakeng, Mosito Mokhele said his office has for a long time been requesting that a new bridge be constructed.

“We have pleaded several times that a new bridge be built to avoid incidents like the one we witnessed,” Mr Mokhele said.

He said the river always fills to the brim whenever there are heavy rains restricting people’s movement.

Mr Mokhele said the taxi incident was not the first and it will probably not be the last as long as that bridge in not fixed.

The Thaba Tseka incident happened soon after a violent hailstorm killed five people, injured several others while M4 million worth of property was destroyed.

Crops and public infrastructure were also destroyed.

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