Flash flood havoc

Main Road in Som­er­set West un­der wa­ter Lourens River bursts banks Homes flooded – Good Weekend

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - MUR­RAY WIL­LIAMS and WENDYL MARTIN

SOM­ER­SET West and Strand were worst af­fected by flash flood­ing yes­ter­day, as emer­gency ser­vices re­mained on high alert, with weather fore­cast­ers say­ing Cape Town should ex­pect pour­ing rain through­out to­day.

Streets were turned into tor­rents as a flash flood half-swal­lowed Main Road in Som­er­set West late yes­ter­day af­ter­noon in the worst flood­ing seen in the area in years.

The heav­ens opened shortly af­ter 4.30pm, ac­com­pa­nied by boom­ing thun­der and flashes of light­ning. By 9pm the Lourens River had burst its banks, and flood wa­ter had risen to al­most a me­tre on some roads in the east­ern sub­urbs of the town.

Des­per­ate women were seen bat­tling to chop holes in brick walls in a bid to re­lease wa­ter build­ing up in­side their homes.

At Vergele­gen MediClinic, some wards had to be evacuated as the wa­ter rose, and civil pro­tec­tion agen­cies blocked off roads across the sub­urbs as wa­ter lev­els rose bon­net-high in places. Weekend Ar­gus re­porters saw at least a dozen houses knee-deep in wa­ter.

Shortly af­ter 9pm, Res­cue Ser­vices were de­ploy­ing rub­ber ducks to reach cer­tain homes.

The strain on stormwa­ter pipes and drains was ev­i­dent as man­hole cov­ers be­gan pop­ping un­der the strain. In the streets, dozens of cars’ en­gines gave up, leav­ing com­muters stranded and driv­ers swerved to avoid col­li­sions.

Sev­eral pedes­tri­ans try­ing to cross roads were knocked over by the force of the wa­ter gen­er­ated by pass­ing cars.

In Bizweni Av­enue, a nar­row ir­ri­ga­tion canal run­ning from the his­toric wine farms fur­ther up the val­ley, burst its banks and flooded a house. Mem­bers of the Hodge fam­ily tried to stem the tide with fran­tic bail­ing, but were soon over­whelmed.

Claire Hodge, of the com­pany A Vin­tage Af­fair, told Weekend Ar­gus last night: “Our en­tire house is around 25cm un­der wa­ter … ev­ery room in the house, ev­ery cor­ri­dor,

ev­ery cup­board is shin-deep in rain­wa­ter. And it’s still ris­ing …”

A nearby res­i­dent stood sur­vey­ing a flooded gar­den and street: “This is not flood­wa­ter from a burst river, this is solely from the sky, and solely in the past hour.”

Closer to the False Bay coast, African ad­ven­turer Ri­aan Manser said from his 4x4 in Beach Road, Strand: “Peo­ple are flooded in­side their cars, peo­ple are trapped in their cars in their garages. Their cars are wa­ter­logged, soak­ing their en­gines, but the driv­ers can’t get out – they can’t open their doors. They’ve just given up…”

He said Beach Road was closed. “I’ve been here for 18 years and I’ve never seen any­thing like this. We are so lucky tonight wasn’t spring tide too – it would have been even worse.”

At the Post Of­fice in Som­er­set West, com­muters tried to reach the nearby taxi rank to get home, but some were too afraid to cross the tur­bu­lent, muddy waters.

Late yes­ter­day the South African Weather Ser­vice’s Cape Town of­fice said there was a 100 per­cent chance of rain to­day, which was ex­pected to spread to the south­ern Cape.

The city, mean­while, said it was de­ploy­ing re­sponse teams and engineering crews to as­sess wa­ter lev­els, ac­cord­ing to Wil­fred Solomon­sJo­hannes, Dis­as­ter Risk Man­age­ment spokesman.

● To re­port flood­ing, blocked drains and ser­vice dis­rup­tions, call 0860 103 089 or SMS to 31373. For road clo­sures, con­tact the city’s Trans­port In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre on 0800 65 64 63, and for emer­gen­cies, dial 107 from a land­line or 021 480 7700 from a cell­phone.

NOVEM­BER 16 2013

PIC­TURE: THOMAS HOLDER

TAK­ING SHEL­TER: A man hud­dles un­der a flimsy cov­er­ing as he tries to es­cape driv­ing rain and strong winds in Camps Bay yes­ter­day.

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