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Relief for Linakeng flood victims

  • Red Cross offers psychosocial support to victims of the fateful March 22 taxi accident
  • Five bodies still missing two months after the incident that shocked the nation on social media

 

Lerato Matheka

THABA-TSEKA – ’Mabokang Marake battles to contain the pain of losing both her daughter and grandson in one of the most tragic deaths witnessed at Linakeng River in March this year.

As different speakers make their way to the podium last week to relive horror of the taxi accident that claimed eight lives, Marake rests her head in her hands covering her face with a checked shawl while weeping silently.

Both bodies of the 23-year old Bokang and her one-year old son have not yet been found since the fateful tragedy that shocked the nation on social media on March 22 (watch the video).

Marake is gathered among victims of the 15-seater taxi that was swept away by the flooding Linakeng River while crossing Makhaola Bridge that fateful day.

The minibus was reported to have carried 16 passengers. A total of eight people, including the driver, survived the accident. Three passengers were recovered dead. Five bodies, Bokang and her son included, are still missing.

The body of the minibus was recovered shapeless downstream of the river, three days after the horrific incident.

The victims and tens of ordinary villagers attended the communal psychosocial support activities organised by the humanitarian body Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS) at Linakeng on Thursday last week.

Linakeng is buried in the mountainous district of Thaba-Tseka – 170KM South East of Maseru.

In an interview with MNN Centre for Journalism (MNNCIJ), the 43-year old Marake says all she needs are bodies of her daughter and grandson to receive proper burial.

Mabokang Marake, mother of the missing 23-year old Bokang and her one-year old son

“I know we might not find the body of my grandson (because he was too young) but I need to bury Bokang. I will find peace if they can find her body. It still hurts and I feel like there is hole dug in my heart,” she says, sobbing.

She manages to continue: “As much as we have been told to forgive and forget, it is not easy, especially because that accident happened in the name of pride. Perhaps more sessions of therapy may help some of us to deal with this, but at this point I am broken”.

Bokang, ’Mabokang says, was travelling from her in-laws and coming home to help with ceremonial preparations which had to be cancelled after a shocking announcement.

“My daughter was travelling from her in-laws to come and help me with ceremonial preparations. I waited for her near the clinic until I heard a taxi was swept away; I don’t even know how I got to the River, but when I got there it felt like a nightmare on daylight. People were being pulled out from the River. Bokang and my grandson were nowhere to be seen. This is too much…,” she wails.

Marake’s pain epitomises the visible sorrow from faces of the gathered villagers.

Ntee Thaane, who survived the accident, says his emotions were shaken by psychosocial session but quickly thanks the LRCS for organising the event.

“I find myself waking up in the middle of the night fighting the water, only to realise it’s only a bad dream. I am very glad we have been given this opportunity to share our experiences and hope that more similar sessions can be organised. I feel a little better,” he says.

The Thaba-Tseka District Administrator Masheane Rapholo, who has only two months in office, told MNNCIJ Linakeng was not the only village that experienced the effects of Climate change around the same time.

He, however, pointed out the Linakeng incident was much more catastrophic, “because it claimed many lives and other bodies are still missing to date”.

Rapholo said he believed more than 10 people died in Thaba-Tseka including the Linakeng deaths around February, as per preliminary reports, due to unforeseen climate change effects.

“I still believe that the number of people who died is more than 10. Basotho have a tendency of not reporting disastrous incidents,” he said.

The DA emphasised need for more climate change adaptation awareness throughout the country.

“This is an amazing gesture the Red Cross has embarked on. I believe that there is a need to complement the psych therapy with climate change adaptation advocacy so that Basotho stay alert of the dangers of the fast-changing weather patterns,” he said.

Rapholo added the idea of identifying and giving training to people who have first aid skills was great, “which should be put into practice even at schools. There are more teachers who have basics and their skills should be harnessed, developed and adopted into school curriculum.”

The DA was as well sympathetic to the taxi driver he observed was equally a victim in need counselling.

“He was arrested, charged and bailed; but I think that is not enough. He needs to be reintegrated into the community and receive counselling too. Accidents are never planned. He needs to be helped to deal with what happened.”

The LRCS, according to Disaster Management Coordinator Maine Makula, visited Linakeng as part of the organisation’s humanitarian mandate.

Red Cross Disaster Management Coordinator Maine Makula

“The Lesotho Red Cross Society’s pillars lie on natural and manmade disasters and if one of the two occurs, it is our responsibility to ensure that affected and vulnerable communities get assistance, at least on first aid basis,” Makula said.

He added: “Usually communities already know disasters they are prone to, so our responsibility is to stress prevention and protection of such disasters”.

The LRCS Disaster Management Department has three pillars Makula mentioned, namely Preparedness, Response and Recovery.

Makula noted the Linakeng visit was part of the Recovery pillar which offer communal psychosocial support and help communities through their teams and committees.

The LRCS counsellors called different victims to the podium to share their experiences and stressed that forgiveness was the key to healing.

The organisation has held similar activities in the aftermath of hailstorms that also claimed at least six lives in Mount Moorosi, Quthing, in March.

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