Cape Town - People were caught in rushing rivers, streams overflowed and roads were blocked off by scattered debris as parts of the Western Cape were inundated with up to 110mm of torrential rainfall.
With the storm set to continue throughout on Tuesday night, rescuers and police were still searching for two missing women who had been caught in the strong current of the Breede River.
The women and three others had decided to take refuge underneath a bridge over the Hoops River in Robertson. But the group was swept away by a surge in the riverwater early on Tuesday morning.
While three people were successfully fished from the water by Western Cape Emergency Medical Services, the two women were still missing at the time of going to print.
The rain continued to wreak more havoc in the countryside. Houses in Zwelentemba and Avian Park, both in the Breede Valley Municipal area, were flooded after hours of rainfall.
In the Langeberg Municipality, causeways were closed off after they were flooded by the overflowing Hoops and Keisie Rivers.
Residents of the Buffelsjagsrivier informal settlement and the Bontebok National Park in Swellendam were evacuated on Monday evening as a precautionary measure – the park was still closed on Tuesday.
In Robertson, the town’s roads were flooded after the area experienced more than 110mm of rainfall.
The R60 between the rural town and Ashton was also temporarily closed as traffic officials removed debris from the road.
“It was quite something,” said commuter Geoff Bird. “The rain was really coming down, and there were all these plants and rocks washed across the road into Ashton.”
Bird encountered the roadblock en route from Oudtshoorn to Cape Town on Tuesday morning. Most of his drive was spent under thick gray clouds, the countryside around him obscured by a wall of heavy rain.
“Visibility was at best 30m, it was scary stuff,” he said. “The roads were waterlogged, and I could feel my car struggling to grip onto the road when I drove through the deeper puddles. But there were still guys speeding all around me.”
With more rain forecast throughout the week, Agri Wes-Cape chief executive Carl Opperman has warned farmers to prepare for floods.
He said the heavy rainfall, which is unusual for January – a month usually known for drought and fires – could not have come at a worse time as many farmers were harvesting their crops.
“While we have had no reports of flood damage, too much rain could cause the fruit to take up too much water and burst.”
Farmers have been advised to move stock from the low-lying areas and move equipment away from the rivers.
“It could be rough, but it is still better than dealing with fires or drought. Once the rain is gone we can go back to business as usual,” said Opperman.