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CAPE OF STORMS 

Storm-ravaged Western Cape dealt tourism blow, R1.4bn damage to agriculture as families mourn loss of lives

Storm-ravaged Western Cape dealt tourism blow, R1.4bn damage to agriculture as families mourn loss of lives
From left: Klipfontein Methodist Primary School. (Graphic: Facebook) | Flooding signage in the Western Cape. (Photo: Shelley Christians) | KwaFaku Primary School in Philippi East. (Graphic: Facebook)

The Western Cape government is still assessing the damage caused by last weekend’s torrential rain and floods. Four children died in Philippi and hundreds of schools were affected. The agricultural sector is estimated to have lost R1.4-billion.

As the downpours continued late on Monday, 25 September, families of four children from Philippi were left mourning the deaths of their children. The children, aged between seven and 12, were reported to have died when illegal electricity connections became submerged in the rising water.

The Western Cape Department of Education reported that three of the children were learners in schools. One of the students was in Grade 5 at Klipfontein Methodist Primary School, and the other two were in grades 1 and 4 at KwaFaku Primary School in Philippi East. 

The four children are among a total of eight confirmed storm-related deaths in the Western Cape, with a further three reported deaths not yet confirmed officially, which would bring the total to 11.

Orchards damaged at Cortina Farms situated in between Grabouw and Villiersdorp. (Photo: Supplied)

David Maynier, MEC for Education, expressed his heartfelt sympathies to the families of the deceased learners. “We have sadly been informed of three learners passing away over the long weekend as a result of the storm. We offer our deepest condolences to their families, and have provided counselling support to their schools,” said Maynier.

Maynier said that 249 schools were affected by the torrential rains and floods and 150 of those schools had reported infrastructure damage. 

The damages to schools ranged from minor leaks to major roof damage; 39 schools were closed on Tuesday and 21 on Wednesday, mainly due to access routes to schools being closed.

Read more in Daily Maverick: At least eight people confirmed dead following devastating weekend of torrential rains and floods

“I visited Franschhoek High School on Wednesday. The school has been closed since the weekend and has no water or electricity. There is also substantial flooding to the access roads, making it impossible for its 650 pupils to attend school,” he said. 

Maynier added, “Preliminary attendance figures indicate that 30.1% of our learners were not able to attend school on Tuesday, and 31.4% were not able to attend on Wednesday.

“Our schools will implement catch-up plans to ensure that pupils do not fall behind as a result of the school days lost this week. Our officials are working with schools to ensure that all can reopen as soon as possible,” he continued.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Why more than two months worth of rain fell in Western Cape weekend storm

An elderly Stanford resident is helped to safety from his flooded home. (Photo: Rodney Ackermann)

Agriculture

The storm caused crop and infrastructural damage worth an estimated R1.4-billion. In a breakdown of agricultural losses, Western Cape Head of Agriculture Dr Mogale Sebopetsa underlined that agricultural losses are only preliminary data, and verification will still take place.

According to initial estimates, the Cape Winelands suffered the most with R800-million in losses including infrastructure damage and crop and soil losses. Overberg is estimated to have suffered R520-million in losses while the Garden Route is estimated to have suffered R82-million in losses.

Sebopetsa said once the water has rescinded “the department will perform a rapid assessment of the various districts and a first draft of this report will be available on the 15th of October”.

“It is anticipated the verification assessments will take place the week 23-27 October 2023. At this point, a more precise estimate would be offered,” said Sebopetsa.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape of Storms

MEC for Agriculture Ivan Meyer said that the estimated total R1.4-billion loss affecting the agriculture sector was a serious blow to the province’s farming sector.

“The province is a large agricultural export zone, and citrus is a major export in South Africa. There are significant losses in the citrus, table grape, vegetable, and fruit industries,” said Meyer. 

“I don’t believe this will have a significant impact on food security, but it will undoubtedly have an impact on our export industry,” he explained.

 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Why more than two months worth of rain fell in Western Cape weekend storm 

A brave volunteer wades across a flooded Queen Victoria Street to get to people who have been cut off from the village. (Photo: Rodney Ackerman)

Tourism 

Tourism is also one of the most seriously affected sectors in the Western Cape as clean-up efforts continue. According to Western Cape Finance and Economic and Development MEC Mireille Wenger, it is too early to make an estimation.

“We are still in the process of counting the cost of the impact of the storm, which includes engaging with tourism and related businesses. We will communicate once the situation becomes clearer. I’m convening an industry readiness event in October at which much of this will be unpacked,” said Wenger. 

The highly anticipated 32nd Hermanus Whale Festival, scheduled to be held this weekend, has announced that it will not be held this year due to the floods.

The decision was taken during a meeting on Thursday with the Overstrand Municipality’s events team and the mayor.

“We will explore alternative ways to celebrate and educate the public about the magnificent marine life that frequents our shores,” said the directors.

Intercape, one of the largest intercity bus operators, was also impacted by the heavy rain. 

Intercape’s Shaun Smeda told Daily Maverick they were impacted by the closure of major routes in the Western Cape. 

“Our national operations centre followed the directives of the provincial and local governments, including the City of Cape Town and Overstrand municipality, which were among the worst affected areas,” said Smeda. 

Shaahida Peters, a resident of the Sandvlei community near Macassar, is helped across the only bridge out of the area after a weekend of storms in the Western Cape. (Photo: Tamsin Metelerkamp)

Clean-up continues

On Wednesday, City of Cape Town spokesperson for Disaster Risk Management Charlotte Powell told Daily Maverick that the city’s departments are still busy with assessments and mopping up operations.

“We are unable to provide a damage estimate for the entire metro area. Disaster management teams have inspected informal communities as clean up operations continue,” said Powell.

The city has confirmed that the storm has affected 12,000 people, said Powell.

Speaking at the Western Cape provincial disaster management briefing on Wednesday, Anton Bredell, MEC for Local Government, Environment, and Development Planning, confirmed that the total number of storm-related deaths is eight.

Premier Alan Winde reiterated that the recovery progress is going to take time and called for patience from communities. 

“Some of the damage that we assessed such as the N2 washaway won’t be a quick fix. It is going to take a while for us to recover, just like the last floods that took place three months ago, we got a way [to go] to recover,” said Winde. 

He added, “NGO partners are assisting communities in the worst affected areas. The focus on assisting is on residents, enabling a greater humanitarian response, and repairing its infrastructure to support socioeconomic activity.” DM

Kraaifontein’s elderly residents receiving parcels and blankets from Gift of the Givers during the Western Cape floods. (Photo: Jim Mohlala)

See the Department of Infrastructure’s latest report on closed roads below:

 

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Penny Swift says:

    Your map is dangerously incorrect! For starters, the road between Rooi Els and Gordons Bay is closed because of major damage. Several other places indicated as closed are open. This is a disservice to the community.

  • Raymond Auerbach says:

    I agree with Penny; it was impossible to get accurate info about roads when travelling back from Cape Town to George on Tuesday. We had intended to ravel via the N1 and Robertson, but since Google said the N2 was open, we went that way but when we reached Bot River it clearly wasn’t! Only the ladies at the local co-op could give us the info that we could get through to Riviersonderend via Hermanus and Stanford. Surely Google should be informed – they know of every minor traffic congestion, but NOT of a major break in a national road? And W Cape could not inform us accurately?

  • Denise Smit says:

    And the total absence and of the National ANC/EFF government of the one in 100 years widespread category 9 storm in Western Cape shows that the Western Cape is not “their people” . They are most probably trying to figure out how the DA caused it and is hoping the damage is so severe the Western Cape can not recover. A disgrace by the ANC/EFF government. Congratulations for the comprehensive way the DA has handled the disaster, they get 100%. Denise Smit

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