Super-wave wreaks havoc

A MYSTERIOUS super-wave swept five bathers off Gonubie Beach, East London, on Friday, forcing a mass rescue and the beach to be closed for the rest of Boxing Day.

A tidal surge battered the entire coast, causing a wave to rear up on Durban's Wedge Beach and sweep away 41 beachgoers, one of whom drowned while the rest were rescued and treated on the beach.

A cold front also sent storm surf riding on top of the extra-high spring tide, causing surf to batter buildings and flood roads along the Cape peninsular.

Hundreds of seal pups were washed ashore at Mossel Bay and False Bay and were rescued and returned to their breeding islands by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), SPCA and the public, NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said.

Marine biologist Siani Tinley, coordinating manager of beach security and lifesavers for Buffalo City Metro, denied a comment on a social media post that a lifeguard got into difficulty during the Gonubie rescue.

She said the combination of big surf, spring tides, tidal surges, Gonubie's small bay and current flowing out of the Gonubie river mouth prompted the decision to close the beach on Friday and again on Sunday.

No other beaches around East London were closed.

Lambinon said an unusual cold front had combined with the spring tide to cause a "crazy day" on Friday.

Jeffreys Bay and Wilderness beaches were also closed on Friday.

"We had no prior warning. We urge people using the sea to do so safely."

Tinley urged the public to take note of official signs at the beaches and instructions from the 49 metro lifeguards who would be working from 6am to 8pm over the New Year period. - Mike Loewe