Tips to Avoid Drowning When Your Car Is Swept by Floods

A car partially submerged in flood waters
A car partially submerged in flood waters

The continued El Nino rains have wreaked havoc across the nation resulting in over 150 deaths, displacement of thousands of Kenyans, and destruction of property.  

Last month, a vehicle carrying two KRA officials was swept away by floods as they travelled from Lunga Lunga along the Likoni-Lunga Lunga Highway in Kwale.

Their bodies would be recovered later as they had died from drowning.

Some individuals were fortunate enough to be reduced from perilous situations, narrowly escaping losing their lives after their vehicles were swept away by flash floods. 

Photo of Submerged car along Mombasa - Changamwe road on November 3, 2023
Photo of partially submerged cars along Mombasa - Changamwe road on November 3, 2023

However, lack seldom strikes the same place twice, hence the need to know the hacks for navigating through flooded waters. 

For a start, one needs to avoid driving in flooded areas. You can always turn around upon realising you are approaching flooded waters. However, it is often hard to predict the rain patterns and magnitude of flush foods. 

As a driver, 6 inches of water is enough to force you to lose control of the car. The situation can escalate as the water level rises, with around 12 inches having the potential to carry the car away.

According to experts, one should maintain calmness and avoid panicking if they find themselves in such a situation. Panic can force one to make hasty decisions. 

In 2019, experts from Rescue Three International, an Emergency training school in Wilton, California, USA, simulated a flash flood with ABC News to educate motorists. In the simulation, the experts provided valuable tips on how to save a motorist or passenger who is drowning. 

Here are the essential life skills you need to consider when inside a sinking car.

Get off the seat belt: Your priority should be getting out of the car. According to the experts, you should not try to get help but focus on securing your safety since the car could fill up and flip upside down. 

Roll down your window: This is the next step to consider after taking off the seat belt, offering yourself a window to swim out. You can smash the window using the headrest or any heavy material in the car if it is stagnant. 

Get out of the car: When the window is open, find a place to hold, such as the seat belt, step onto the seat, get out through the window, and climb onto the top/roof of the car. You can now call for help at this point.

A police car in CS Kithure Kindiki's motorcade passing through stagnant water in Lamu on December 7, 2023.
A police car in CS Kithure Kindiki's motorcade passing through stagnant water in Lamu on December 7, 2023.
Kithure Kindiki

Swim to safety: With the vehicle moving as fast as the floods are, jump over it to avoid an eventuality where it knocks into an obstacle and throws you off. 

According to the experts, once you realise help isn't close enough and staying any longer would be more dangerous, you can jump off swim with your feet up and pointing downstream if the water is moving at high speed so that you don't get entangled or stuck; the feet should help get obstacles that you can out of the way. 

Look for a calmer part of the water and swim in that direction. When you get closer to the edge where you can get out, you can, at that point, swim faster and get out.

Victims who do not know how to swim can hold onto any object that is floating while calling for help. 

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