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Extreme weather warnings renewed for Eastern Cape as efforts to help flood victims continue

Extreme weather warnings renewed for Eastern Cape as efforts to help flood victims continue
Mattresses, blankets, toiletries and food were distributed by the Gift of the Givers team at Daku Hall in Kwazakhele, Nelson Mandela Bay, on Wednesday, 17 May 2023. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

As dam levels rise in the drought-stricken Eastern Cape, the South African Weather Office has issued a second warning for disruptive rain this week for the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and Kouga Local Municipality. Meanwhile, residents of Buffalo City, Port St Johns and some inland areas are still cleaning up following floods over the weekend.

A renewed warning for disruptive rain was issued for Wednesday night and Thursday for Nelson Mandela Bay and Kouga, as authorities grappled with more than a thousand people in the two municipalities who had been displaced by heavy rain over the weekend.

Garth Sampson from the South African Weather Office said the weekend’s rain was the highest four-day total since 2012. The region has been gripped by debilitating drought for the past eight years. He warned that disruptive rain was expected again on Wednesday. 

Rienette Colesky of the Gamtoos Irrigation Board said levels in the Kouga Dam, the largest in the Algoa Water system, had increased to 15.75% after the rains, and as water was still flowing into the dam, levels were expected to rise to around 19%. 

One of the smaller dams in the system providing water to Nelson Mandela Bay, the Loerie Dam, is now at 101.39% and the Groendal Dam in Kariega (formerly Uitenhage) has increased from 16.9% to 69.25%. The Impofu Dam, which was empty, is now at 6.79% and the Churchill Dam is at 26.09%.

Some of the displaced residents currently living in Daku Hall in Kwazakhele meet with the Gift of the Givers team. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

Mattresses distributed by the Gift of the Givers team at Daku Hall in Kwazakhele, Nelson Mandela Bay, on Wednesday, 17 May 2023. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

There are 48 children among those displaced by floods in Nelson Mandela Bay over the weekend. Here Liyabana Mpohla shares her friend Aphiwe Ngoza’s carrots while having lunch. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

The Gift of the Givers team hands over toiletries to an affected resident. (Photo: Donna van der Watt)

As rain clouds gathered over the Bay, Gift of the Givers teams on Wednesday raced against time to provide mattresses, warm food, blankets, and basic toiletries to people housed at the Daku Community Hall. The hall is housing 75 women, 51 men and 48 children who were displaced by the weekend’s floods. Ali Sablay from Gift of the Givers said the foundation had received an urgent appeal for mattresses, blankets and toiletry packs. 

“Gift of the Givers has been on the ground since Sunday delivering hot meals, blankets and hygiene items.”

Mop-up work and an assessment of flood damage started in Nelson Mandela Bay on Monday.

Metro spokesperson Mamela Ndamase confirmed that 1,000 residents were being accommodated in places of safety after the floods, but that the Human Settlements Directorate had started providing temporary structures for families. The Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Councillor Lawrence Troon, said infrastructure and engineering teams had been deployed to drain floodwaters and reopen some of the affected roads.

Troon said stormwater drains were blocked by rubble, used nappies, plastic and cement blocks: 

“The total cost of the damage caused by the rains is still being investigated,” he said.

A consolidated flood damage report drawn up for the provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs described widespread flood damage throughout the province. According to the report, 1,200 people were displaced in Nelson Mandela Bay, and 21 areas in the metro suffered damage. Areas in Buffalo City, the Mbhashe Local Municipality and the OR Tambo District Municipality were also flooded, a bridge was washed away and roads were damaged. Heavy rains were recorded in Bedford, and warnings were issued in Elliotdale to people not to try crossing bridges that were under water.

The report further states that flood damage in Port St Johns had not been fixed yet, and the Greenfields area, previously flooded, was at risk again. It started raining in the area on Friday. DM/MC

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