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Heavy Western Cape rains claim two lives, leave thousands displaced while relief efforts continue

Heavy Western Cape rains claim two lives, leave thousands displaced while relief efforts continue
The road to the Mouton Citrus farm in Citrusdal in the Western Cape on 20 June 2023 after it was washed away by the flooded Olifants River. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Gift of the Givers has been assisting with essential supplies, including fleece blankets, plastic coveralls, bottled water, bread, non-perishable food items and hygiene packs.

Heavy rainfall in the Western Cape between 14 and 19 June claimed the lives of two people and left thousands displaced as authorities and aid workers continued with relief efforts.

A 64-year-old man was found dead after refusing to be relocated with others in Vredendal, said Premier Alan Winde. Another person was swept away while trying to cross the Buffeljags River in Overberg.

western cape floods clanwilliam

The sluice gates on the Clanwilliam Dam were opened as water levels reached the highest in 30 years. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

“We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the loved ones of those lost. Each life lost is a tragedy,” said Winde.

According to initial assessments, the flood damage is expected to cost the province’s agricultural sector between R750-million and R1-billion.

The Cape Winelands and the West Coast were hard hit by a series of cold fronts which led to heavy rain between 14 and 19 June.

western cape floods citrussdal

Repair work on the entrance road to Citrusdal, Western Cape on 20 June 2023 after the bridge over the Olifants River was washed away by floodwaters. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Citrusdal, a town in the Olifants River Valley, was still largely cut off from the rest of the world on Tuesday after part of the R303 was washed away. It took an hour’s drive on a gravel road through Clanwilliam to access the area.

 

Dozens of Citrusdal residents were displaced after their houses were flooded or washed away. They took shelter at the Oranjeville Community Centre.

western cape floods Mnyamandawo

The informal settlement of Mnyamandawo in Citrusdal after the Olifants River burst its banks, washing away homes and leaving many people homeless. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Mantwa Phushuti shelters in the Oranjeville Community Centre in Citrusdal after her home was flooded. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

The area has had no electricity for the past five days after utility poles supporting overhead power lines toppled into the river. The South African National Defence Force is expected to provide a helicopter to help Eskom employees restore electricity.

“It has been over three days at this community centre,” said Mantwa Phushuti from Mnyamandawo informal settlement.

“My house was washed away and I do not know where will I go after this is all over. Help cannot reach us because the road was washed away.” 

Gift of the Givers has been assisting with relief efforts in the area and has provided essential supplies, including fleece blankets, plastic coveralls, bottled water, bread, non-perishable food items and hygiene packs. 

 

Back in Mnyamandawo, Vuyolwethu Mjoli was salvaging what he could from his house while standing knee-deep in water. 

floods mnyamandawo

The informal settlement of Mnyamandawo in Citrusdal after the Olifants River burst its banks, washing away homes and leaving many people homeless. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

“The river got full and the water flooded our houses,” he said. “We have lost our belongings but we are grateful that no life was lost as the water came above our knees during the heavy rains.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Western Cape warned of further weather chaos as rescue teams battle hazardous conditions 

Many residents in the informal settlement initially came to the area to work on the farms. Cederberg Local Municipality spokesperson Anthony Mlata suggested residents in the informal settlement had occupied the land illegally and their homes were not officially recognised by the municipality.

floods citrusdal

The Cederberg/Algeria road from the N7 past Citrusdal has been washed away by Olifants River floodwaters after heavy winter rains. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

He said he could not tell how long it would take to fix the road to restore access to Citrusdal. 

“The R303 is a big job — it will not be done today or tomorrow, but the construction team is already on site. The farm bridge had to be closed too as the water level rose higher this morning but I am sure by tomorrow that will subside,” Mlata said on Tuesday.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Roads, rail, power and homes disrupted as torrential rain and winds batter Cape Town and surrounds

Meanwhile, dams supplying the Western Cape reached the 90% mark following the heavy rainfall. The last time dam levels were so high was in June 2014.

floods citrusdal

Citrus trees flooded along the Olifants River in Citrusdal. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

According to the National Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Theewaterskloof Dam was 96% full, compared with 76% last year. The Olifants/Doorn River Catchment on the West Coast had increased by more than 40% since last week.

Over the past week, 17 dams, including Karee, Misverstand, Ceres and Brandvlei, registered an increase of more than 5%.

The provincial head of the Western Cape DWS, Ntombizanele Bila-Mupariwa, said there was localised flooding near the construction site of the Clanwilliam Dam wall but there were no immediate reports of infrastructure damage. 

“The Clanwilliam Dam construction site office is established well above the flood line and full supply level and thus remains undamaged. However, the foreman’s office and eight containers (that were emptied) were washed away due to the unexpected high flows.

“The work on the dam apron surface will now be delayed until the dam stops spilling. In the meantime, other critical path activities such as quarry development and embankment work will continue,” said Bila-Mupariwa. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Michiel Erik Moll says:

    Not mentioned is the flooding on the Lower Berg River and Velddrif, where historic Bokkomlaan is still closed and Kliphoek Resort flooded, amongst other farms

  • louis viljee says:

    I had a ringside seat in Bainskloof, sheltering in a wooden cabin. It was incredible. No mention of climate disruption? While Gwede Mantashe continues to ignore every sensible, less expensive and healthier alternative as he continues pushing his corrupt agenda of Karpowerships, nuclear and coal.

  • Johan Buys says:

    How do we hold CPT accountable for its criminally negligent mismanagement of the Wemmershoek and Berg River dams’ sluice release? It added 2m to 2.5m to the level of the Berg River last Wednesday by its decision to open sluices 4AM that morning. I am referring to dam water increment to what the river rose because of the rain.

  • bushtrack says:

    Western Cape residents should thank their provincial leadership for their efficiency – repair construction crews already on site at a number of affected places. Compare this with the KZN floods in April 2022 where the bare minimum has been done to date by the KZN provincial government re repairs.

  • Fran V says:

    This rainfall has been crazy. I last remember rivers like the Eerst River in Stellenbosch being this full when I was 9/10 years old! In Hermanus we were without power for four days due to 4 downed pylons. The amazing response teams battled knee-deep mud, stuck trucks, gale force winds and driving rain up on the Hermanus mountainside for 3 days to get us back online.

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