2 die as floods ravage country
Thousands forced to flee homes as rivers burst banks
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.
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