By Gay Matambo
CHILONGA Bridge in Chiredzi is slowly turning into a death trap, with seven people having drowned during this rainy season while trying to cross the flooded Runde River.
The unfortunate incident that left three people dead after the car they were travelling in was swept away by the flooded Runde River at Chilonga Bridge this Monday is slowly becoming an all too familiar but unwanted script.
The thought of heavy rains brings nightmares to the local community as the bridge is often submerged cutting out Chilonga from the town of Chiredzi.
While the message from experts is to avoid crossing flooded rivers, the daring ones still force their way and the consequences are dire with seven lives having been lost since the onset of the rainy season.
Just this Monday a Toyota Hilux travelling to Chilonga business centre from Chiredzi which had ten passengers on board was swept away at the bridge with three people, including a two-year-old baby drowning.
“This accident is not sitting well with us. We have many unanswered questions because this bridge is slowly turning into a death snare that people are just dying here. So far seven have died during this rainy season and it’s troubling us,” said a villager.
“We were there when the incident occurred and we tried to rescue all the passengers, unfortunately, two drowned and we also couldn’t find a two-year-old baby. We thought the child was trapped under the car so when we moved the car yesterday, we still couldn’t find the child,” said an eyewitness.
As the Zimbabwe Republic Police Buchwa sub-aqua unit was conducting a search operation for the body this Wednesday, a member of the team, Sergeant Rillford Rimai aged 34 drowned in the river and his body was retrieved last night at around 7. pm.
“Yes, I can confirm that one of our officers drowned in the river while searching for the missing juvenile. His body was retrieved last night. Police are still searching for the missing juvenile. It’s really sad,” said Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi.
Legislators in the area promised to push for the bridge to be rehabilitated under the government’s emergency road rehabilitation programme (ERRP).
“A lot of people have lost their lives trying to cross to Chilonga using this bridge which is very painful. We are pushing for the prioritisation of the bridge in the government’s infrastructure programme,” said Honourable Callisto Gwanetsa, legislator for Chiredzi South constituency.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Republic Police has urged the public not to cross flooded water bodies.