Mad Dash To Safety Past A Flotilla Of Coffins


Heavy rains in the Karoo can conjure up some strange sights.  In the severe flood in Beaufort West in 1940, coffins floating about in New Street delayed a Beaufort man long enough for him to save a young mother and her baby.  On a visit to his hometown, Beaufort West, back in 2000, Almero de Villiers recalled  hurrying along New Street in search of shelter during a sudden heavy downpour. “ The waters of the Gamka River were rapidly rising and I knew it would soon become a raging torrent and race through town,” said  AImero.  “As I passed the premises of  Mr Deas, the local undertaker, near the the corner of New and Union streets, I was confronted by the weirdest sight.  His entire stock of coffins was bobbing and drifting about in his  yard like some macabre flotilla.  It was a riveting.  I just  stood staring.  Then, as I turned to continue my dash to a dryer place, I saw  a 1,5 m high wall of water rushing straight at  me.  It was sweeping a tangle of  cardboard boxes, old tin cans, newspapers and assorted debris before it. Out of nowhere a young woman carrying a baby in her arms stepped on to the stoep of a New Street house.  She stared in horror, frozen and panic-stricken   Then she began to scream. Above the roar of the storm and water I yelled: ‘Run, run to the Kingsley Hotel.’ The urgency of my voice penetrated her panic and she set off at record-breaking pace.  Both she and the baby escaped the roaring waters totally unscathed. Shaking with cold and fright we both stood in the doorway of the hotel and watched New Street turn into a raging river.”


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