Jagersfontein disaster: 2 people still missing, rivers polluted as residents warned to avoid sludge

23rd September 2022 By: News24Wire

Two people are still unaccounted for, nearly two weeks after a mining dam wall collapsed in the small Free State town of Jagersfontein.

They are 50-year-old Mantele Mokhali, and 70-year-old Shadrack Williams.

"The search and rescue mission remains activated in this regard," said Palesa Chubisi, spokesperson for Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela.

One person, Ralehana Aaron Mosoeu, 78, died in the disaster. 

Meanwhile, the Kopanong Local Municipality has warned residents in the affected areas in Jagersfontein to wear masks and closed shoes, avoid walking around barefoot, and avoid coming into contact with the sludge.

According to the latest report that Ntombela's office released, 63 people were placed at Sandstone Sleeper Estate in Bloemfontein.

A medical team assessed one adult and three children there.

An ambulance was called for a nine-month-old baby with a cough [who] was taken to National hospital.

Two pregnant women were also moved from Sandstone to the President Hotel on Tuesday.

In addition, a medical team treated three people at the President Hotel, she said. One was a diabetic who was monitored and the others received medication.

She added that the department distributed wheelchairs, walking frames, and sticks to those who needed the equipment.

Meanwhile, the Department of Social Development has established that some people from the 187 affected households lost all their belongings, and others were partially affected. Some people fled from the town for safety reasons.

A total of 164 backyard vegetable gardens were wiped out by the sludge.

"Subsistence and smallholder farmers on commonages are without livestock as losses of 865 animals belonging to 25 farmers are recorded to date. It is feared that these figures may rise as assessments on the ground continue," Chubisi added.

Fourteen smallholder and commercial farmers on 29 farms were devastated after the Prosesspruit and Kromellenboogspruit rivers they live along were polluted.

According to the report, "the extent of the damage to grazing land (excluding area around the river) is estimated at 2 615ha, while grazing that has been destroyed on commonage land is estimated at 250 ha".

"At this stage, more than 2 000 ha will need to be rehabilitated before it can be suitable for grazing again. Access roads to farms need to be rebuilt, while some farmers have attempted to clear up low water bridges to ensure easy access to farms."

According to Chubisi, 148 Social Relief of Disaster (SRD) applications were received – 54 for school uniforms and 94 for cash.  

She said 38 were verified and approved for payment on Friday.

The remaining 56 will be approved as soon as the verification process has been completed.