Western Cape -

Laingsburg, which has suffered flood damage estimated at R500 million, should be declared a disaster zone, says Western Cape Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Gerrit van Rensburg.

He visited the area on Friday to assess the aftermath of the flood, which saw many farmers cut off.

Two weeks ago, the Groot Karoo town suffered its worst floods since 1981.

“I use the word disaster because that is exactly what I am seeing,” said Van Rensburg, adding he would write to the National Treasury on Monday for funds.

“People don’t have electricity and roads are inaccessible, cutting off most of this town.”

A section of the N1 freeway was damaged and there were several stop-and-go intersections in place between Touws River and Laingsburg to allow for repair work.

The Buffels River broke its banks, damaging trees and parts of the adjacent bridge.

Cellphone communication was still limited in the area and some telephone and electrical lines were damaged.

Van Rensburg said the application to declare Laingsburg a disaster zone would go to the Western Cape Disaster Risk Management Centre and then to provincial and national authorities.

“I hope the process will be completed in at least three months,” he said.

Laingsburg mayor Wilhelm Theron, who is also a farmer, said the damage to roads and other municipal infrastructure was estimated at about R20m.

“The cost to repair damage would run into millions for farmers too.

“There was large-scale damage to our farms, which employ a large percentage of the town’s residents. We have limited funds because we are not a large municipality so we will need the help of provincial and national government,” he said.

Danie Crafford, owner of Floriskraal Farm in Laingsburg, said a large part of his farmlands were submerged due to flooding.

“I only have a small piece of land left to work with,” he said. Another problem we have here is the electricity. Our machines cannot operate without it. We need to shave our sheep.”

Van Rensburg also made a stop in Ladismith, where last week 10 people – five of them children – had to be rescued from a farm that had been cut off by floodwater.

Kannaland Municipality mayor Jeffrey Donson said his council would look at how they could assist farmers financially.

“Our town’s drinking water has also been affected by the floods. Our dam has been damaged.

“If farmers cannot do their business, a large portion of our community will be unemployed and that leads to social problems,” he said.

[email protected]

Cape Times