Flood Death Toll in South Africa Climbs to 32

Heavy rains and floods over the northern and eastern parts of South Africa during the last two weeks have led to the deaths of at least 32 people, 25 of which have drowned, it was reported on Monday.

Gauteng province

In Gauteng province, 113mm (4.5”) of rain fell in the first ten days of March, compared with the long term average of 101mm (4”) for the month, according to SA Weather Services last Thursday. Pretoria received 190mm (7.5”) of rainfall in the same period, the most since 1997 when 383mm (15”) fell over the whole month of March.

The body of one of three boys who went missing on Monday in Mamelodi East, Pretoria, was found trapped under a fallen tree on Saturday as floodwaters receded. City of Tshwane spokesperson Blessing Manale said the search for the other two boys was continuing.

Ekurhuleni emergency services spokesperson William Ntladi reported last Monday that his department was assisting families whose homes had been flooded, including about 635 shacks in Vosloorus, Thokoza and Katlehong.

Northwest province

In Northwest province, the provincial Disaster Management Centre reported that the bodies of two male adults had been recovered by rescue teams in Marikana and that of a boy had been recovered in Mogwase near the Sun City resort outside Rustenburg following recent flooding, bringing the number of people who have drowned in the province in the past two week to four.

The search for a second missing child reported missing on Thursday was called off after it was discovered that the Mogwase incident only involved one child.

Seven bridges have been washed away across the province and over 600 people temporarily displaced by the flooding.

floods in northwest province south africa
Floods in Northwest Province, South Africa. Photo Arrive Alive South Africa

Relief efforts were also mobilized to assist 500 learners in school boarding facilities affected by flooding in Mabele-a-Podi village.

Flooding of the Kgetleng River has left many trucks reportedly stuck between Rustenburg and Northam, and on Friday morning police divers rescued two motorists whose cars had been swept away by floods on the Mogwase-Northam road the previous evening, leaving them clinging to trees to stay alive.

Limpopo Province

In Limpopo province, about 1,300 people were rescued during the week due to extensive flooding. This represented 700 families, 117 of whom were from Lephalale (Ellisras), said provincial spokesperson Phuti Seloba, who went on to urge motorists not to use roads leading to Lephalale, nor the R101 road from Bela-Bela (Warmbaths) to Mookgopong (Naboomspruit). Motorists travelling between Pretoria and Polokwane should use the N1 national route.

Floods in Limpopo. Photo: UrbanGateway
Floods in Limpopo. Photo: UrbanGateway

The body of the 69-year old Sarah Viljoen who, together with her 74-year old husband, was swept out of a covered swimming pool at the Klein Kariba resort by flooding from a burst dam near Bela-Bela on Thursday 6 March, has finally been recovered after over a week. Her husband’s body had been recovered earlier.

Parts of Bela-Bela have been evacuated after a second dam burst near the town on the same day. It was reported on Monday 17 March that national government may declare the Waterberg district a disaster area.

Mpumalanga province

In Mpumalanga province, flooding had caused the Kruger National Park authorities to close ten of its camps by late last week, but officials insisted that this posed little threat to the safety of tourists, although they were warned to avoid gravel roads. Grain SA Chief Executive Jannie de Villiers said that the floods will probably delay the maize harvest in the east of the Mpumalanga province.

National costs

According to the president of the SA Forum of Civil Engineering Contractors, Norman Milne, the construction industry in South Africa lost revenue estimated at R50m (US$5m) to R100m (US$10m) per day because of rain delays.

National telecoms utility Telkom said that while its facilities have an eight hour backup, its network has been struggling owing to an increased volume of network-related faults arising from bad weather. Not only does flooding cause faults, it said, but “it also restricts workmen from accessing the fault zone, causing delays in repair times.”

Four border posts between South Africa and Botswana were reported on Friday to have been closed and the 120 staff members evacuated after floods left several bridges along the Limpopo River submerged. Travellers have been urged to use alternative border crossings in the Northwest province.

Co-operative Governance Minister Lechesa Tsenoli said on Friday that assessments by government to establish the cost of damage caused by the floods had yet to be finalised. “It is early days to determine those costs. We don’t have them yet,” he said.

Sources: Enca; SABC; MG; SA News; News 24