A year after the floods, the Gumbi family are still hoping to find the bodies of their children

“We have accepted that they are gone,” says member of Durban family

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Asanda Gumbi, age 14 (left) with eight-year-old Lubanzi (centre) and Sindokuhle, 14, (right) have been missing since the home they were sleeping in was washed away by severe floods in Durban on 11 April 2022. The family say they cannot get closure as the children are yet to be officially declared dead by authorities. Photo: Supplied by family

  • Today marks a year since the devastating floods across KwaZulu-Natal claimed the lives of over 400 people, with many people still missing.
  • The Gumbi family lost three children, two aged 14 and one eight-year-old, in the floods.
  • The family say they are not able to get closure because the bodies have not been found and the children have not yet been declared dead.
  • KwaZulu-Natal police confirmed that the investigation into the missing flood victims is still ongoing.

It’s been a year since torrential rain wreaked havoc across most parts of KwaZulu-Natal, claiming the lives of at least 435 people, with many people still missing. The flooding had a devastating impact for thousands as many homes and infrastructures were completely destroyed.

For the Gumbi family from KwaNgcolosi in Durban, who lost three young children, the tragedy of the floods is still very present. For days after the children disappeared, the family say, they used their bare hands to dig through the mud near the home, hoping to find the children’s bodies in the debris.

Cousins Slindokuhle and Asanda both aged 14, and eight-year-old Lubanzi have been missing since 11 April 2022, when the family home was washed away. The three children and two adult relatives were inside the house at the time.

The two women who were with the children, Mano and Mandisa, were rescued a few metres from where the house had been. They were both seriously injured and were treated in hospital for a few months thereafter.

Mano Gumbi is 8-year-old Lubanzi’s grandmother and aunt to the two teenage cousins. “It still feels like a dream,” Mano told GroundUp. She said she still feels guilty that she was not able to protect them. “I will only be at peace when the children’s remains are found,” she said.

Mano said she still has nowhere to live. She has been staying with different relatives in uMlazi until she is able to find a new home.

Asanda’s mother, Bongi Cele, explained how she had only found out a day later that the children were missing. “There was nothing but a big pipe where the house used to be. We’ve tried everything to find the children but with no luck.”

Cele said her only wish now is to to find her daughter in order to give her a dignified burial. “Asanda would have turned 15 this year and be in Grade 9. She was a happy soul. She loved to laugh and loved people. I let her live with her father’s family. Her father passed away when she was young and she wanted to live with them,” she said.

Family spokesperson Kwanele Gumbi said that they are yet to heal from the tragedy. Even though it’s a year later, the family have not been able to hold a proper memorial for the children who have not yet been declared deceased, he said.

“It is hard to find closure when you haven’t seen their remains. We have accepted that they are gone, but are still hopeful to at least find their bones and give them a fitting funeral.”

Gumbi said another concern is that there has not been any feedback from authorities on the search for the children’s remains. “It has been a year, but no one has bothered to tell us whether the search continues, or if the children are going to be declared dead since they haven’t been found,” he said.

He said the family had viewed hundreds of bodies at the mortuary in the hopes of finding the children. “It was such a traumatic experience for the mothers. They visited different mortuaries to identify bodies, give DNA samples, and they saw over 1,000 bodies.

“We just need to know what the legal requirements are to have someone declared deceased? This process needs to be done quickly to give us closure as the family,” he said.

Our questions to the Premier’s office were redirected to the police.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Robert Netshiunda said that the investigation into the missing flood victims is ongoing. “As long as there are still people who are unaccounted for, investigating police will keep looking. If new clues emerge, a multi-disciplinary search will still be employed,” he said.

TOPICS:  Disaster

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