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Jukskei drownings: Joburg family fearing for the worst after mum of three kids vanishes

Pretoria – A Joburg family has expressed distress after their daughter, a mother of three minor children, vanished after attending a church service where worshippers were tragically swept away in the Jukskei River.

Speaking to IOL, Margaret Nleya said her niece Thokozani Sibanda, 33, had gone to the river with fellow congregants on Saturday, and has not returned to her children.

“I heard that they went to the river for baptism, then they were swept away with flash floods. As you have heard, 14 bodies were found and my sister’s daughter is still missing,” Nleya said in an interview.

“We have gone to the mortuary and she is nowhere to be found. We are still hoping to find her. We are stressed,” she said.

On Tuesday morning, City of Joburg’s Emergency Management Services (EMS) said it was resuming its extensive search for the outstanding church members who were part of the congregation that went to perform religious rituals at the Jukskei River.

“Today we will be resuming with our search along Jukskei (River), but that will depend on the weather conditions because yesterday we had to call off our search due to the risk of injury to our rescue workers,” Joburg EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi told Newzroom Afrika.

“We had to stop that search at around three in the afternoon (on Monday) due to the severe thunderstorms which we had,” he said.

At least 14 bodies of the worshippers have so far been recovered after the drowning incident, which took place on Saturday.

After the tragedy on Saturday, one woman was rescued, and two bodies were initially recovered.

“On Saturday, we recovered two people (bodies), and one lady was rescued. She was taken to the nearest healthcare facility for further medical care, and yesterday (Sunday) between eight in the morning and around six in the evening, we managed to recover about 12 bodies,” said Mulaudzi.

The twelve bodies recovered on Sunday brought the death toll to 14.

Nleya appreciated the efforts of the rescue teams, and appealed to them to leave no stone unturned in the search for survivors and bodies.

“We kindly appreciate their help and hope that they can find her. We do know why she is nowhere to be found like that. We are not going to have closure if she is nowhere to be found,” she said.

The Joburg EMS said it has been approached by different families reporting that their loved ones are missing, with concerns that they could also have been part of the congregation.