The air was thick with tension. Rain relentlessly pounding against the windows as nightfall approached, a continuous drumbeat of nature’s intensifying rage. Nozipho’s small riverside community nestled along the Umgeni River had been on edge for two days now, as the rain showed no sign of stopping. Nozipho had been doing homework at her friend, Zinhle’s house, when Mrs Ncube interrupted them to tell Nozi that her mother had sent for her. “Stay safe, ” Mrs Ncube shouted, as Nozipho waved goodbye.

They had weathered storms before, but this felt different. Nozipho was even hearing whispers of evacuation orders. Once home, she saw her mother was hurriedly gathering their belongings. Her two younger siblings, wide-eyed and fearful, clung to their mother’s side. “Why are you packing our things?” Nozi asked. “We need to evacuate as soon as possible and move to higher ground,” her mom explained. Mrs. Dimba had been nervously watching the river rise all day, its waters threatening to move closer. Word had spread that they were in danger of a flash flood and needed to make their way to safety.

Nozi, feeling a little queasy suddenly, picked up as many bags as she could comfortably carry and together the family made their way out of their home. At the door, she stopped and looked back. She noticed that their dog was not there. “Mama, where’s Vusi?” Nozi cried in panic.

“I’m not sure, he did not come when I called for him this afternoon,” she said.

“Can’t we wait for him?”

“No my child, there is not enough time” Mrs Dimba responded, shaking her head. “Do not worry, if he is in trouble, he will make a plan. That dog is very resourceful and we will be back in no time.”

Her younger siblings, Andile and Busisiwe, had been instructed to hold on tightly to one another as the family made their way to a nearby petrol station. A few hours earlier, a priest walking through the community told people that it was a safe spot to meet and await further instruction. With their neighbours in tow, Nozipho’s family carefully trod through thick, slippery mud, being careful not to trip over any fallen debris. It was difficult to see through the raindrops that fell in her eyes, and Nozipho nearly lost her balance on a few occasions, but the family eventually made it, unharmed.

Upon their arrival, they saw the community standing in anxious clusters. As helpless as they felt – faces strained with worry, eyes darting towards the roiling river – everyone was trying as much as possible to stand together and comfort one another. Some were going around and offering coffee from the petrol station’s locker room, while others were making sure no one was hurt. People held on to one another and offered words of resilience. Some were even reading verses from a bible aloud for comfort or praying. Mrs. Dimba instructed her children to stick together, she was going to try and find out what was going on, or if any plans were being made for temporary shelter.

After what felt like an eternity, the priest from earlier reappeared to let them all know that there was a nearby community hall which had been designated as a temporary shelter. At this news, everyone slowly made their way to the hall – dripping wet but relieved to finally have a place to rest and wait out the rain.

Tell us: how would you feel in this situation?