Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the “Padavattan Six” – a group of seine-netters, who saved 176 people from drowning in the Tintown Floods of 1917.
Little is known about the brave efforts of Captain Mariemuthoo Padavattan, his brother Gengan, Sabapathy Periyasamy Govender, Rangasamy Naidoo, 16-year-old Kuppusamy Naidoo, and T Veloo. The then-media waxed lyrical about the efforts of these brave “free Indians”, who were released from their five year period of indenture on the Natal cane fields.
By 1917, the community of Tintown was made of over 2,500 people who built wood and iron houses and turned the riverbanks into lush vegetable gardens. Their produce was hawked door to door around Durban households. The residents of Tintown had experienced flooding many times over the years but this was the worst flood disaster ever experienced..
The M. Padavattan Primary School at Chatsworth, south of Durban was later named in memory of the captain, Mariemuthoo Padavattan. Newsbreak Lotus FM tracked down Sagarie Moodley, who is the granddaughter of Kuppusamy Naidoo who was the youngest lifesaver on that fateful day.
That fateful night, as the Tin Town farmers slept peacefully, the rains and the resulting debris dammed up the Railway and Connaught Bridges. When the pillars of the Railway Bridge cracked, a wall of water and debris came down on Tin Town. Many houses, people and livestock were immediately swept away.