Flood death toll rises

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In the Eastern Cape, a section of the N2 between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth collapsed on Saturday night, the provincial government said.

Cape Town - The death toll in flooding-related incidents in the Western Cape and Eastern and Cape has risen to double figures, with more details emerging of heavy damage caused at the weekend.

In Port Alfred one house was washed away and others severely damaged by rising waters. Part of a road in the town was washed away, isolating a suburb.

Rains across the country caused havoc. On Sunday eight people had been confirmed dead, with reports of an increase to 13 deaths, 11 of which were in the Eastern Cape.

Storms and heavy rain lashed the Western Cape and Eastern Cape at the weekend, with roads and bridges washed away and many people missing and feared dead.

Repair work still being done to repair the damage by similar flooding in 2010 suffered major setbacks, said Sisanda George, spokesman for the beleaguered Eastern Cape province’s Department of Roads and Public Works.

In Port Alfred and St Francis Bay, National Sea Rescue Institute volunteer crews had their hands full helping people from flooded properties and getting people safely across flood waters where bridges had washed away.

In St Francis Bay, a large part of the road into the town had washed away and NSRI boats ferried people across the damaged area, including children who had to get ready to write matric exams.

The flooding and heavy rains had not only caused new damage, but also severely set back work done to repair the damage from 2010, George said.

“We are still trying to assess the damage, but it is widespread, throughout the province. If you think just in terms of the building materials and aggregate that had been washed away now at the construction sites, the costs should be very high,” he said.

Closer to Cape Town, the Overberg was also hard hit, with swollen rivers flooding their banks.

Rescuers saved people clinging to the roofs of their cars from a flooded river in Napier after they were swept off bridges due to heavy downpours at the weekend.

Two cars were swept off separate bridges on Saturday, Overberg fire chief Reinard Geldenhuys said on Sunday.

“We found [one] driver about 20m down the river, stuck on top of the vehicle for two hours. We deployed rescue swimmers and brought him to safety.”

Geldenhuys said Byron Lombard had been on his way to retrieve a vehicle that had been washed away earlier when his breakdown vehicle was also washed away around 2am. When rescuers found him, Lombard had been on top of his vehicle for four hours. He was treated for hypothermia.

In separate incident, a man, his wife and child were also swept into the river while driving over another bridge, Geldenhuys said.

“The family were rescued by a farmer. They were also found clinging to the roof of their vehicle.”

Later, a man who was being pursued by police jumped into the Napier river to escape arrest. He is still at large.

In the Eastern Cape, a section of the N2 between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth collapsed on Saturday night.

Provincial traffic and disaster management spokesman Tshepo Machae said the collapse was due to rainfall in the area. “There is a huge hole, about 25m wide and 50m deep on the N2, by the Pumba Game Reserve, between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown,” said Captain John Fobian.

The road has been closed and traffic is being diverted from Port Elizabeth to the N10 through Cookhouse.

Before the road collapsed on Saturday, a truck caught in the floods overturned. Police, divers and a rescue team were called to save the passengers.

Also in the Eastern Cape early on Sunday, NSRI volunteeers rescued a group of 76 people and a dog near the Zwartkops River in Port Elizabeth. They had been cut off from the mainland by the swollen river.

NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon, said the group had gathered for a church service.

Gauteng was hit by a severe hailstorm on Saturday, resulting in a number of road accidents, including three separate crashes on the N1 in Midrand that left two people injured.

The SA Weather Service has warned that heavy rains are expected to continue in the southern parts of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

Cape Argus


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