Hundreds Displaced in South Africa Floods

The heavy rainfall that has inundated the province of Gauteng over the last two weeks has been described by the South African Weather Service as “highly unusual”, adding that more rain has fallen over the past week than the annual average for the entire month of March.

“Other parts of the country that will be affected by heavy rains include Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern parts of the North West”, the weather service’s Venetia Phakula said on Monday 10 March 2014. She expected the weather to start moderating towards the end of the week.

Several dams and rivers have flooded in Gauteng, Limpopo and the North West province, leaving hundreds of families displaced.

Photo: Urban Gateway
Photo: Urban Gateway

Gauteng provincial disaster management centre (PDMC) head Elias Sithole reported on Friday that the most affected areas in the province were the City of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, with about 160 informal dwellings (‘shacks’) being flooded.

“25 displaced families were moved to the community hall in Tembisa and about 200 community members had to be accommodated in the community hall in Kliptown, the PDMC provided blankets to the affected community members,” Sithole said.

A further 30 families from Kliptown were displaced over the weekend when their shacks were destroyed by downpours.

In Tshwane, emergency management service spokesman Johan Pieterse said that flooding had occurred on Monday as rivers overflowed, with the affected areas being Centurion, Hammanskraal, Atteridgeville, Soshanguve, and Ga-Rankuwa. “Rivers have overflowed and houses close by the rivers pose the risk of flooding”, he said, adding that although emergency services were assisting communities, there had been no evacuations as yet.

In a freak incident in Limpopo province, a 69-year old woman is still missing after she and her 74-year old husband were swept out of a covered swimming pool at the Klein Kariba Lodge resort by a flood of water from a burst dam upstream. They were washed away when the Bela-Bela dam overflowed on Friday 7 March 2014.

Sunday newspaper Rapport said that, according to the resort owner, the dam upstream had burst just after 1pm and within seconds a mass of water had hit the resort, with eyewitnesses seeing the couple swept away. About 50 other holidaymakers were moved to safety, Rapport said.

The body of the husband was located on Saturday, but the search for the wife was delayed by ongoing heavy rain and rising water levels. Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi of the Limpopo police said the search team was on standby to continue the search should the water level decrease. By Monday 10 March 2014, the woman was still missing.

A spokesperson for the Limpopo Department of Transport said on Sunday that damage to roads from heavy rains had led to some roads being partly or completely closed, including the road between Vaalwater and Lephalale and the road leading to Waterberg lodge which was washed away at Melkrivier. Motorists were urged to use R510 or R518 when travelling to Lephalale.

“The Strydom tunnel is operating on one lane, our team is busy attending to the matter to have both lanes operational” said the spokesperson.

The office of the North West premier reported that 16 families were evacuated from Monotomosetlha informal settlement near Coligny, and given temporary accommodation in local churches.

In Mpumalanga province, a 25-year old homeless man was rescued from the concrete base of a bridge, just above the water level of the flooded Sand River. The SAPS diving unit was called after locals of the village near Bushbuckridge spotted the man clinging to the bridge.

The unit’s provincial co-ordinator warned that the sunny weather after a storm was often the most dangerous period because people become more confident, believing that the waters would be safer. However, rivers might still be violent as there could be heavy rains in their upper catchments that would cause further flooding.

The national electricity utility, ESKOM, was forced to institute rostered power cuts across the country on Thursday 6th March due to the combined effects of a constrained electricity supply caused by maintenance, coupled with damp coal at the power stations caused by ongoing heavy rains. This was the first time that such ‘rolling black-outs’ had been implemented since January 2008.

Sources: EWN; The New Age; News 24; IOL; Times Live