Poor at mercy of cold, wet weather

Western Cape

Cape Town -

As Cape Town’s poorest residents mopped up after the cold, wet weather and braced for more, the city’s disaster management teams have been put on high alert.

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CAPE TOWN, 5/8/2014, Funeka Mkwanabi stands outside her sons house that was flooded last year in the QQ section of khayaletsha. Picture: Adrian de KockCAPE TOWN, 5/8/2014,A section of QQ in khayaletsha that experience heavy flooding last year. Picture: Adrian de Kock

Some people living in informal settlements say there is little they could have done to prepare for the heavy rain and strong winds that started battering the province on Thursday and which are expected to continue into next week.

“When it rains, even if it’s a little rain, we have to go and ask for a place to stay at family or neighbours whose houses don’t get affected as badly,” said Funeka Mkwanabi of QQ Section in Khayelitsha.

Mkwanabi said they appreciated the little help they received from the city, which was mainly from councillor Monde Nqulwana.

“I have been here since 1993, but last year was the worst winter… we always say we won’t vote and make those kinds of threats but when the time comes we vote because we like to believe the people we vote for will be able to do something.”

Nqulwana said he hadn’t received any calls from residents needing help after the heavy rain.

Sakhumzi Macekiswana, from Siqalo, said he had to move his shack to another part of the informal settlement after heavy rains last year. He had sent his four children back to the Eastern Cape in March, ahead of the cold weather.

“I had a shop but the rain was so bad last year I had to move to another part of Siqalo. I have been here since 2012 and it is always the same this time of year. I know it will be bad and that’s why I sent my children back home.”

Macekiswana said people tried to raise their shacks off the ground using sand and rubble from construction sites and put plastic sheeting on their roofs.

“With the wind, the plastic doesn’t stay on long but we have to try what we can… the water is the biggest problem we have here. The city doesn’t help us because they say we are on private land.”

There were large pools of water in Siqalo yesterday, where residents were offloading sand and rubble to try to lift their homes above the water. Children sailed across the pools on chunks of polystyrene.

This week, the city launched a “comprehensive” plan to help people living in low-lying areas.

Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said the city had put “some very good systems in place to try and counteract the forces of nature.

“But, of course, our job is made that much harder by illegal dumping… clogged stormwater systems are one of the biggest challenges we face every year because they are treated as waste receptacles.”

Smith said the city had been working with people living in low-lying areas to raise awareness about flooding.

“We have been working on cleaning stormwater gullies and working with people and showing them how to raise their structures and making sure sandbags are available. We have ensured early warning systems are in place for us to be able to respond promptly.”

In addition, emergency shelters had been identified to accommodate residents in the event of flooding.

“For a long time we were limping around with short-term solutions and this is our long-term solution…”

The SA Weather Service predicted rain until Tuesday, with temperatures in the high teens and low twenties.

- To report flooding, blocked drains or service disruptions, contact the city’s call centre at 0860 103 089.

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