REPORT 25 December 2016

We have news of involvement by HAMNET members in four emergency situations in the last 2 weeks.

From Andrew Gray ZS2G we hear that 12 HAMNET and PEARS members assisted in fighting the bush fire in the Theescombe area that advanced across the Heatherbank Hill towards the Lorraine area on the 6th December. Local inhabitants were helped to evacuate their belongings away from the threat. Luckily the wind died down that evening, and the fire was brought under control when it reached the grassy areas of Heatherbank.

Over the weekend of the 17th December the same members assisted in the search for a 65 year old lady who had left her home in Lorraine at about 9am that morning. The bushy areas of Lorraine and Kamma Park were scoured without success, and the search was called off at 10 that evening. Next morning early, it was reported that she had returned home unaided at 5.30am, before the search could be resumed. Thank you to the Division Two operators who assisted in the search.

And in Cape Town, we heard this week of two searches occurring simultaneously on Thursday night the 22nd December. Grant Southey ZS1GS, reports that he responded to assist at a search for a 20 year-old female, who had got separated from her family in Newlands Forest and not rendezvoused at 20h30 that evening.

The female and her family were visiting from Gauteng and she had spent the afternoon hiking alone in the area. She was in cellular contact with her mom and had sent her an image of her location but did not arrive back at the expected time. While a search manager was interviewing the mother of the patient, a second call for a male lost on the Hout Bay side came through. This meant that the teams that had gathered were split and some sent to Hout Bay while some remained at Newlands forest to search for the missing lady.

The Hout Bay call was on Kabonkelberg and the patient had comms via cell phone with the incident commander. He was advised to reserve the battery life for when help was closer so that he could be located more easily. Phil Van Den Bossche (ZS1VCC) and Jason Codd (ZS1ZW) were deployed as logistic operators to assist with that rescue.

In the meantime 5 teams of around three people each were sent through the forest to try to locate the missing lady in Newlands. From the image that was sent to her mother it appeared that she was at the contour path 2 hours before her last contact with her mom. Further information from a trail runner showed that she was higher than expected and a team was rerouted to the area and ultimately found her shaken and injured, but  still able to walk herself out most of the way home. However, she was piggy-backed on the last stretch, via Tafelberg Road.  She was transported back to Newlands Forest where she was reunited with her family.

At around the same time the patient on Kabonkelberg was reached and he too was in a exhausted condition and required the assistance of technical rescuers to get him to safety. He was brought down from the mountain and all parties stood down around 05:00 the next morning.

Both these incidents could have turned out tragically, as the weather was deteriorating, and during the night, some rain was experienced.

Grant thanks all those who assisted in the searches.

We congratulate a very active radio club in KwaZulu Natal, the Highway Amateur Radio Club, on its successful display at the Watercrest Mall recently, and reported on in the Highway Mail of 21 December. Members of the HARC are staunch supporters of HAMNET, and many assist with the communications at all the important sporting events in KZN, such as the Comrades Marathon. The display at the Watercrest Mall had the purpose of interacting with the general public, to make known the purpose of the club and to dispel any incorrect preconceived ideas they may have about our hobby. Interested parties may visit their website at

Although the earth’s crust continues to fidget, there have been no severe earthquakes this week. Instead we are watching with concern two tropical storms that are threatening to make landfall soon.

The Philippines are again being threatened by a storm, this one tropical Cyclone NOCK-TEN-16, which is barrelling along from South-East to North-West, across the Northern aspects of the Philippines and towards the Chinese mainland. Maximum wind speeds so far have been measured at 194kph! The estimated population affected by Category 1 (120kph) wind speeds or higher is 12.6 million.

And on a smaller scale, North-Western Australia is being approached by Tropical Cyclone Yvette-16, which may broach the coast in the next day or two. However, wind speeds have not been measured at higher than 83kph yet, so the threat is currently not very great.

But spare a thought for Northern and Eastern Mongolia, currently experiencing vicious winter weather. Mongolia’s livestock and herders are at huge risk. Nothing we experience in South Africa can ever compare with this area’s weather, where temperatures are currently minus 56 degrees Celsius! Mongolia’s traditional nomads are facing a natural disaster known as ‘dzud’, where frigid temperatures and heavy snow cause widespread livestock deaths, threatening herders’ livelihoods. The region is now under 40 centimeters of snow, four times the usual level. The dzud of 2009-2010, one of the most severe in history, saw a total of 9.7 million livestock deaths. As many as 1.1 million head of livestock died last winter, and this winter doesn’t look any better.

On that chilly note, may I take this opportunity, on behalf of all HAMNET members, to wish you all a very happy and safe holiday, wherever you may be. Travel safely, remain vigilant, and above all, remain radio-active!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.