CAPE OF STORMS
Heavy Western Cape rains claim two lives, leave thousands displaced while relief efforts continue
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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