2 die as floods rav­age coun­try

Thou­sands forced to flee homes as rivers burst banks

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - MELANIE PETERS, KASHIEFA AJAM and SAMEER NAIK

TWO PEO­PLE died and more than 1 500 peo­ple on the West Coast and in the north of the coun­try have had to flee rag­ing flood­wa­ters.

The dead are the four-year-old son of doc­u­men­tary cam­era­man Daniel Black, who drowned when the Groot Marico River burst its banks, and Ly­dia Nt­shize, 35, of Se­bo­keng, whose car was washed off a bridge in Fochville, near Carl­tonville.

Po­lice spokesman Lieu­tenant Colonel Le­sego Metsi said Black’s fam­ily – his wife, an 18-year-old, and two sons aged 12 and four – had been on hol­i­day at a re­sort near Bronkhorst­fontein when their chalet was flooded on Wed­nes­day night.

As wa­ter poured in the chalet through the open door, Black’s wife and older child climbed on to fur­ni­ture. But Black and the two youngest chil­dren were swept out. Metsi said Black clung to his four-year-old boy as he and the 12-year-old held on to trees.

But Black was un­able to hold on to the small boy. About noon on Thurs­day res­cue ser­vices found Black and the older boy still cling­ing to trees in the river.

“Po­lice searched and the body of the four-year-old was found a few kilo­me­tres away,” said an of­fi­cial.

Yes­ter­day the sun came out both on the West Coast and in Gaut­eng and peo­ple started mop­ping up.

The flood wa­ters dis­placed 250 peo­ple on the West Coast and caused dam­age to the tune of R5 mil­lion.

So­cial Devel­op­ment MEC Pa­tri­cia De Lille vis­ited Ebenezer, Vre­den­dal North and Lutzville, where heavy rains lashed down on Thurs­day. Other towns af­fected in­cluded Papen­dorp and Uitkyk.

De Lille said: “In some of the homes the wa­ter mark is one me­tre high. Peo­ple stayed in nearby schools and com­mu­nity halls. But yes­ter­day the sun was shin­ing and ev­ery­one had re­turned to their homes to clean up, put mat­tresses out to dry and hang up car­pets. Peo­ple were help­ing each other and ev­ery­where you went there was work be­ing done to re­store their homes and towns. Of­fi­cials were also work­ing to re­store elec­tric­ity and wa­ter sup­plies.”

She said the depart­ment had handed out blan­kets and food parcels.

Jan Swartz, di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity ser­vices in the Matzikama mu­nic­i­pal­ity, said huge pumps were push­ing thou­sands of litres of wa­ter away from res­i­den­tial ar­eas. A num­ber of canals were dug. In some homes the wa­ter was chest high. One or two houses were badly dam­aged.

Swartz said bull­doz­ers were work­ing on the ma­jor dam­age to Park Street in Lutzville, which caved in when the town’s ir­ri­ga­tion canal broke its banks above the town.

“Chunks of the road were washed away and many peo­ple were un­able to leave their prop­er­ties as their cars were stuck in their drive­ways.”

Many res­i­dents were us­ing buck­ets to clear wa­ter from their homes. “Res­i­dents are grate­ful that it was not worse than this and that they still have their homes.”

In greater Joburg at least 1 200 peo­ple were left home­less by the flash floods.

The SA Weather Ser­vice warned that yes­ter­day’s sunny respite in Gaut­eng was tem­po­rary, and that by to­mor­row the rains would re­turn and last un­til Christ­mas.

How­ever, EMS spokesman Percy Morokane said the Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment units in six re­gions in Joburg had been pre­pared – if they hadn’t been, the sit­u­a­tion could have been far worse.

“We have a great re­la­tion­ship with the SA Weather Ser­vice. We knew that some­thing big was com­ing for about a week. We have been putting strate­gies in place and as­sess­ing var­i­ous risk ar­eas since then. It is not our re­spon­si­bil­ity to move peo­ple away from the river banks, but we even went out to the com­mu­ni­ties along some the rivers to ed­u­cate them on how to deal with floods.

“We sta­tioned re­ac­tion units less than 10 min­utes away from the ar­eas we sus­pected would be af­fected.

“We are call­ing upon big busi­ness to please do­nate food parcels, cloth­ing, what­ever they can to mit­i­gate the ef­fects of the near dis­as­ter,” said Morokane.

To­mor­row’s Week­end Ar­gus will be the last edi­tion un­til

New Year. Don’t miss it! We wish our Chris­tian read­ers

a happy Christ­mas.

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