At least one person is confirmed dead and seven reported missing in Johannesburg, South Africa, after flash flooding hit the eastern suburbs of the country’s largest city on Wednesday 09 November, following widespread spring rains. Almost 90 mm of rain fell in 3 hours during yesterday’s storm, according to South African Weather Service (SAWS).
According to the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), several vehicles were washed away by flooding on the M1 and N3 motorways. This is the second time this week that roads in Gauteng province have experienced flash flooding.
There are currently conflicting reports of casualties. The Member of the Metropolitan Council (MMC) responsible for public safety in Johannesburg, Yao-Heng Michael Sun, reportedly stated on Thursday morning that six people had died in the floods, with one small child still missing.
JMPD spokesman Wayne Minnaar reported that one person, whose body was recovered on Wednesday night, had died. Private paramedic service Emer-G-Med spokesman Max Cohen reported that the body of a second victim, who had drowned, had been recovered late on Wednesday night. A further statement from JMPD spokesperson Edna Mamonyana, reported on Thursday morning, indicated that four people were killed in a collision between a goods vehicle and several cars which occurred during the floods.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) website meanwhile reported on Thursday morning that the Gauteng Provincial Government (which encompasses Johannesburg) had stated that four people were confirmed to have died during the flooding.
Up to 100 vehicles were reportedly stranded by floodwaters on Wednesday afternoon, with emergency services assisting trapped motorists. Flooding blocked access roads to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, causing knock-on delays in flight departures, and diversions of incoming flights to other airports. The lower parking and access level of the airport also suffered light flooding.
A boundary wall at the Johannesburg Zoo collapsed owing to the floods, but no injuries to people or animals were reported. Zoo spokesperson Jenny Moodley confirmed on Wednesday evening that all the animals had been accounted for, allaying fears of animals on the loose. She said the zoo would remain closed on Thursday for safety and damage assessment purposes.
Numerous homes in low-lying areas were also flooded. Netcare 911 private emergency service reported that one of their paramedics, who wanted to remain anonymous, had rescued several people from a flooded home in Orchards, Johannesburg. The paramedic noticed that the road on which he was driving was flooded further along and was about to turn round when he was summoned by a man whose wife and five children were trapped in a nearby house which was chest-high in water.
“The Netcare 911 paramedic rushed to the scene, where he found that the house was submerged in water. He then broke a window to gain entry into the house … He managed to carry all five children between four years old and twelve years old and their mother out to safety. Once they had reached an area without water, the paramedic then assessed them and found that they did not require medical care. Netcare911 would like to salute this brave paramedic who despite not being dispatched to the call, went beyond the call of duty to save a mother and her five children as well as an elderly woman,” Netcare911 said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
The South African Weather Service has forecast further thunderstorms for Thursday, and JMPD spokesman Wayne Minnaar again urged motorists not to drive through flooded portions of roadway.
According to WMO figures, 90 mm of rain fell at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo international airport in a 24 hour period between 09 and 10 November. South Africa Weather Service say that 89.6 mm fell in approximately 3 hours during yesterday’s storm.
Pongola, KwaZulu-Natal Province, recorded 62 mm of rain between 08 and 09 November.
— Pretoria Rekord (@RekordNewspaper) November 10, 2016
Johannesburg N3 cars were flashed away by flood pic.twitter.com/fMERSaswse
— Tlhoksdiks (@DiksHlox) November 9, 2016
— Deborah Jacobson (@DebjDeborah) November 9, 2016
— City of Joburg (@CityofJoburgZA) November 10, 2016