Leonard Ncube Victoria Falls Reporter
PANIC gripped the resort town of Victoria Falls on Monday after it was reported that a helicopter carrying tourists had crashed.
Residents lined the streets as ambulances and fire tenders sped through to the wail of deafening emergency sirens.Motorists gave lifts to scores of residents as they rushed to the scene, only to discover it was a hoax as Zambezi Helicopter Company was running a mock drill to check on disaster preparedness.
Even police were convinced an accident had occurred and rushed to the scene with accident rescue teams.
When our news crew arrived at the Shearwater-run ZHC, there were scores of police officers armed with accident management equipment, rescue teams from the Fire Brigade and ambulances from the council, as the emergency services swiftly responded to the supposed accident.
Raymond Chitare, the ZHC safety officer, said they phoned disaster management partners alerting them about the planned mock drill although some mistook it for a real accident, their memories still fresh from another helicopter crash last week.
Shearwater spokesperson Clement Mukwasi said Victoria Falls as a tourist destination needed a disaster management plan to ensure the safety of tourists.
“What we did was to carry out a disaster management check up to see how ready our disaster management plan team is. This is one of the requirements that should be met in terms of rules governing aviation business and this is exactly what we did,” said Mukwasi.
He said the mock drill was a success.
“We’re happy with the response of all stakeholders both business and state apparatus who rapidly responded not only physically but brought enough equipment to attend to an accident scene. That’s a sign of how ready the town is,” said Mukwasi.
Superintendent Paul Dema, in charge of crime and operations in Victoria Falls district, who attended the scene, said they were compelled to do two mock drills every year.
“We came here rushing to attend to an accident. As police, we took it as a real exercise and activated all stakeholders to rush to the scene and what we found were tourists. Yes, the idea is good as it should be done twice a year, but perhaps they should have done it at some place where there are no tourists and inform the police as well,” he said.
“We thought it was a real accident, but we’re happy with the readiness of all teams, they all arrived swiftly. You can see the huge turnout from the army, police, President’s Office and other stakeholders.”