CAPE OF STORMS
Flooding aftermath – Gift of the Givers rolls out huge operation to assist 10,000 Western Cape residents
An estimated 10,000 Western Cape residents need aid after the devastating stormy weather and floods over the long weekend. Nonprofit Gift of the Givers is rolling out disaster relief in communities across the province.
In the wake of the massive storms that rocked the Western Cape over the long weekend, nonprofit Gift of the Givers has been providing disaster intervention in communities across the province. An estimated 10,000 people have been affected by the heavy rainfall, strong winds and flooding caused by the destructive weather system.
Gift of the Givers operations manager Ali Sablay said the flooding was one of the more challenging disasters the organisation had dealt with in the Western Cape, largely due to widespread road closures during and after the storms.
“Our operation is not a one-day or two-day operation. We’ll be running this operation for a week or two just to reach areas. As roads are slowly becoming accessible, our teams will immediately move in,” he said.
“This operation is huge. We’re expecting… over 10,000 [affected] people – that’s in our estimation, and our figures are coming to us from municipalities, from our teams’ assessments on the ground, from community members. This is going to require big assistance in terms of blankets, mattresses and more donations coming in.”
The first calls for Gift of the Givers’ help came in the early hours of Sunday, 24 September and it has since deployed five teams to assist in various regions of the province, including the Overberg and the Cape metropolitan area. Working alongside provincial and municipal disaster management teams, they have helped people in Grabouw, Sir Lowry’s Pass Village and the Nonzamo informal settlement, among others.
Daily Maverick accompanied Gift of the Givers on visits to two communities in the City of Cape Town Municipality on Tuesday – the Goliath Estate informal settlement, Kraaifontein and Sandvlei near Macassar.
Homes flooded in Sandvlei
Sandvlei is situated between the Eerste and Kuils rivers, the levels of which rose during this week’s heavy rains and flooded the area from both sides. It is the second time in three months that residents’ homes have been flooded.
“It’s not the first time [the community has flooded]. It’s a yearly thing and we’re struggling with it. The City knows about this,” said Nazeem Anthony, a resident and chairperson of the Helderberg Community Horse Club. He added that the recent floods were higher than in previous years.
“We’re actually cut off now, our bridge leading to the residents – it’s the only bridge in and out – it’s completely flooded, and… the concrete [material] in between the actual bridge has washed away.”
When Gift of the Givers arrived at the bridge, volunteers and residents used a safety line stretched across the flooded structure to wade to the other side, carrying food parcels and emergency supplies.
Jameel Anthony, Nazeem’s brother, who helped to bring food to the cut-off community, said: “My brother stays with his family on the other side of the bridge… I couldn’t just do nothing, so I made up my mind that I am going to help… the Gift of the Givers to make sure we can get some of the people that side food, because they couldn’t go to the shop for two days.”
Residents of Sandvlei used sand from the nearby quarry to build barriers around houses and doorways, but many homes were still overrun by water. Some residents, including Mogamat Zyn Johnson, had only just finished repairing damage from the previous flood when the latest one hit.
“We thought the floods were finished, so we fixed everything, we put new stuff in, and now suddenly a flood came again,” he said. “Now, we can’t go to work because the road is blocked, and I have a small child who can’t go to crèche… We must sit here and wait until the water dries up.”
Shaahida Peters, another Sandvlei resident, plans to stay with her mother in Mitchells Plain until the waters subside. She and her two young daughters were helped across the bridge by fellow residents.
“It’s risky staying here… We’re more worried about the kids,” she said. “Everyone is struggling, no one can get food… They’re cold, they have to step in the water… The electricity is giving problems [and] the food is all going to waste.”
Yesterday, I scooped 100 litres of water [out of my home] and it didn’t make a difference. Today, there’s sunshine, so we’ll try and start again.
Nazeem Anthony estimated it would be several days before the water levels returned to normal. He hoped the City of Cape Town would engage with residents on how to improve infrastructure and mitigate against future flooding in the area. “We’re not blaming the city… Come to us, sit with us. We have plans for them,” he said.
Daily Maverick reached out to the City about possible improvements to local infrastructure. It said the bridge into the area was “located on private property”, adding: “The City cannot make any improvements to any private property without permission of the owner and without it being in line with the Municipal Finance Management Act.”
Waterlogged in Kraaifontein
In Goliath Estate informal settlement, Gift of the Givers distributed food and toiletry packs to residents. About 350 people live there, and many of them saw their homes damaged by winds and rain this week.
Charlene Farmer, a resident of the settlement, said the storm had a significant impact on the community, flooding homes and ruining belongings. In parts of her own home the floor was still under several centimetres of water.
“I don’t even have food now in my house because everything is getting wet… I needed to throw it away,” she said.
As a mother of two and grandmother of one, she is worried that the wet conditions will affect the health of the family’s children. “[The kids] were the only thing I wanted to protect, because the doctors don’t have medicines to give to the children… A week before I was by the clinic [and] they don’t have medicines, they’re waiting for the medicines,” she explained.
Another resident, Lynne Surridge, told Daily Maverick that the flooding in the settlement was linked to increased development in the surrounding area.
“There used to be a forest… with lots of trees that used to hold the water, and in summer they cleared all the trees out for the development, which means there’s nothing to hold the water. It’s all coming into our houses now. So, nobody expected this to happen,” she said.
“Yesterday, I scooped 100 litres of water [out of my home] and it didn’t make a difference. Today, there’s sunshine, so we’ll try and start again.”
The situation in Sandvlei and Goliath Estate informal settlement is mirrored in communities across the Western Cape. According to Sablay, the most important items to deliver to people in need are clothing, non-perishable food items, hot meals, blankets and mattresses.
“Many areas are telling us their water is contaminated now. An extra item we need to look at is getting clean drinking water, whether it’s via water tankers, bottled water, into these communities,” he said.
Carl Pophaim, the mayoral committee member for human settlements, said the City’s human settlements, disaster risk management and safety and security teams were working to help residents in affected areas with relocation and emergency flood kits, where possible.
“In some areas where the water will take longer to evaporate due to the soil conditions, and where the safety risk is pronounced, City teams will look at draining water where feasible. Full assessments of households in need are being done across the metro,” he said.
On Tuesday, Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis signed a Major Incident Declaration for sites severely affected by flooding, including Sir Lowry’s Pass Village and Rasta Kamp. This allows for the allocation of additional resources and relief measures to handle the aftermath of the storms.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Downpours and gales wreak havoc across Western Cape over the heritage weekend
“My heartfelt condolences to the families who have lost loved ones through various tragic incidents that took place during the storm. May we keep these families in our prayers and thoughts,” said Hill-Lewis.
“Thank you to the city officials who have worked throughout this weekend, and continue to do so, to support all residents. I wish to thank all members of the public and organisations who have donated food items, clothing and other items as part of the community response.” DM
Those wishing to donate funds for the Gift of the Givers flood relief operation in the Western Cape can do so here.
Items for donation can be dropped off at the Gift of the Givers office in Cape Town.