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Western Cape races to repair roads after destructive downpours on Heritage Day weekend

Western Cape races to repair roads after destructive downpours on Heritage Day weekend
The bridge on the N2 highway outside Botrivier was washed away on 25 September 2023. (Photo: Benton Geach / Gallo Images

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said damaged roads needed to be reopened ahead of the festive season so that the provincial economy could benefit.

The Western Cape government has given an update on road infrastructure repairs after a storm lashed parts of the province over the Heritage Day long weekend in September.

The storm caused a second major flood this year in the Western Cape.

“We first had to make sure that we saved lives. We had to get in there and make sure that people were safe and were put into halls. We got food to people … it was a disaster response,” said Winde.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Downpours and gales wreak havoc across Western Cape over the heritage weekend

The floods destroyed homes, bridges and access roads to suburbs and schools.

Heather van Ster, Western Cape education chief director, confirmed that 249 schools were affected by the storm, with 149 having been damaged.

w cape storm roads

Sir Lowry’s Pass near Somerset West was closed for hours due to fallen trees on 25 September 2023. (Photo: Benton Geach / Gallo Images

“Most of the damage could be addressed in clean-up operations by the schools… On Tuesday after the long weekend, 39 schools had to be closed.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape of Storms

That number declined as transport routes opened and cleanup operations were finalised,” said Van Ster.

The week-long school holiday helped to expedite repair work on damaged roads.

Van Ster said all schools were now open except for Sandhills Primary School outside Worcester, where learners were being accommodated at alternate sites while repairs continued.

Economic concerns

Winde said it was time to reopen the roads so that the economy could move forward.

“We have harvest season coming in now; we have tourism season coming in… so it is critical that we continue to focus on the economy.”

w cape storm roads

Municipal workers in Franschhoek clear a road of mud and storm debris on 4 October 2023. (Photo: Kyra Wilkinson)

“We also have to be mindful of the impact of climate change … this has shown us that climate change is alive and well in this province and bringing about a massive change in how we live and, of course, it has to bring about a massive change in how we rebuild,” said Winde.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Western Cape hospitality and tourism industry still counting the ‘massive’ cost of mudslides and flooding

The Western Cape department of infrastructure team detailed the progress made in reopening roads and confirmed there were still several roads that remained to be repaired.

According to officials, damage caused by the flooding included the silting up of culverts and drains, rockfalls that blocked drains, the erosion of earth drains and damage to asphalt surfacing on three low-water structures.

Roads presently closed:

  • Franschhoek Pass remains closed due to several slips (“landslides”) along the road. On-site repair teams are working to reopen one lane of traffic by 31 October. Once a single lane has been reopened, traffic will be managed through stop/go operations. At this point, it is unlikely that heavy motor vehicles will be allowed to use this road until both lanes have been reopened. The estimated cost of these repairs is not yet available.
  • Clarence Drive remains closed for through traffic, with only a section of the road opened from the Gordon’s Bay approach up to The Grille Shack restaurant. On-site repair teams are working from The Grille Shack and Rooi Els sides of the closure to restore those sections of the road. It’s anticipated that one lane of traffic along Clarence Drive will be reopened by mid to late December. The estimated cost of these repairs can be assessed only once all the clearing has been done.
  • The Hemel-en-Aarde road between Caledon and the R43 near Hermanus remains temporarily closed. Onrus River flooding caused portions of the road to be washed away. On-site repair teams are working to have the road reopened for one-lane traffic by the end of October. Once a single lane has been reopened, stop/go measures will be implemented. Permanent repairs to the road infrastructure are likely to cost about R80-million.
  • Good progress is reported in fully reopening the road between the R317 and McGregor. The project, including resurfacing, is expected to be completed by 31 October.
  • A single lane of traffic is open at the intersection of the R43 and the R44 near Kleinmond. Repairs to the damaged culvert at this intersection are expected to be completed by late January 2024.
  • The road through Meiringspoort (N12), between the towns of Klaarstroom and De Rust, was also damaged. The road has, however, been cleared of debris and is currently open to traffic.
  • It is hoped that Chapman’s Peak Drive will be reopened by the end of this week. This is subject to clearance from geotechnical consultants. Damage to the roadway was limited.

The Overberg District Municipality initially had 68 roads closed. This has been reduced to 18.

Cape Winelands District Municipality closed 15 roads after the storm, 10 of which have since been reopened.

The City of Cape Town closed five roads, all of which have been reopened.

The Garden Route Municipality had more rain damage over the past weekend, hampering progress. Of the seven roads that were affected, five are still under construction.

Of the 20 damaged roads in the West Coast District Municipality, all but one have been repaired. DM

Absa OBP

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