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Appeal to declare Citrusdal a disaster area amid warning of more rain

Appeal to declare Citrusdal a disaster area amid warning of more rain
Blankets and food parcels from Gift of the Givers were brought in to Doringbos by helicopter on 21 June 2023. The town was cut off because of flooding. (Photo Brenton Geach)

More than 20 communities remain cut off from the rest of the Western Cape following the heavy rains, while a helicopter had to be used to deliver food.

Cederberg municipal manager Gerrit Matthyse wants Citrusdal and surrounding areas affected by the flooding to be declared a local disaster area. 

The Cape Winelands and the West Coast – which includes Citrusdal, a town in the Olifants River Valley – were hit hard by a series of cold fronts which led to heavy rain between 14 and 19 June.

Matthyse said officials are still assessing the damage. 

“It’s necessary for us to have our area declared a local disaster area, and also to gather information from the farming community based on their estimations on the impact of the floods on the farming business,” he said.

He added that just more than 20 communities have been cut off from the rest of the province, with many people stuck on farms because roads are waterlogged. 

“Thus far, if you ask me, except for Citrusdal and Wupperthal we can easily say about 20 smaller communities on farms that were cut off that we provided food. We are also busy adding the numbers and waiting for information from the Gift of the Givers.”

The Olifants River in Citrusdal on 21 June 2023 after the flooding. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Those people cannot work because the farms are flooded, and the no work, no pay principle applies, say workers. 

“We are working with many organisations to deliver food and other supplies to these communities,” said Matthyse. People housed in community halls would remain there until the situation on the ground improved. 

The sluice gates at the Clanwilliam Dam had been opened as water levels reached their highest in 30 years. This had caused flooding in Matzikama Local Municipality. 

Matthyse said the sluice had to be opened to protect the integrity of the walls, and they informed the municipality beforehand. 

Power restored

Eskom technicians have finally restored the electricity supply to the beleaguered town of Citrusdal, days after heavy storms ravaged the utility’s network, leaving residents in the dark for a week. 

The heavy rainfall has caused havoc with Eskom’s network across the province, with many towns hit by unplanned outages. Citrusdal was hit hardest, and the intense flooding prevented access to the portion of the line that needed to be repaired.

The town’s main access off the N7 highway caved in during last week’s deluge and is still being attended to. 

The flooding has taken the lives of two people and left thousands displaced. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: 

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

Winter deluge brings both relief and misery to Cape Town

On Wednesday, in a joint operation with Western Cape Disaster Management and the South African National Defence Force, Eskom technicians were airlifted to do repairs on the line. Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers used the helicopter to deliver food and other supplies to remote areas. 

Blankets and food for Doringbos residents from Gift of the Givers on 21 June 2023. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

“The inclement weather over the past few days has caused destruction to the critical infrastructure needed to ensure the security of supply,” said Mbulelo Yedwa, general manager of Eskom Distribution in the Cape Coastal Cluster. “Natural disasters are hard to predict, nevertheless it is important to be prepared for such events, and I’d like to thank the Eskom team and our partners for their efforts to bring back electricity supply to our customers in Citrusdal.” 

As the water subsided, the Brakfontein Bridge, on the Mouton Citrus farm,  was being used to transport goods to and from Citrusdal on Thursday. 

Several roads in the area remain closed. They are: 

  • Algeria (DR1487);
  • Citrusdal (MR310, 112km to 113.5km);
  • Bridge at Brakfontein closed (MR310 area);
  • Citrusdal/Warmbaths (DR2215, 17km to 28km);
  • Citrusdal (MR539, tp to 1.6km);
  • Uitkykpass (DR1487, 19.5km to 25km);
  • Dwarsrivier Matjiesrivier (DR1487, 52km to 66km);
  • Clanwilliam/Kransvlei (DR2184, 3km to 5km); and
  • Clanwilliam/Kransvlei (DR2184, 5km to 6km).

Citrusdal is not out of the woods yet, as more rain is expected next week.

Matthyse said: “We are doing a joint operational meeting to start planning for next week because from Tuesday to Friday next rain is coming, according to the weather bureau.”

Gift of the Givers will remain in the area, including surrounding areas such as Vredendal, to feed residents. To donate to the Gift of the Givers, use this link. DM

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