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‘We can’t stop the water from coming in’

Cape Town - They may be veterans of Western Cape winters, but the cold, rain and frequent flooding is something the Tununu family could do without.

Their two-roomed shack in Brown’s Farm in Philippi is full of reminders of valuables damaged in winters past.

Grandmother Beauty Tununu keeps her grandson Imanqe Tununu warm with the aid of a two-plate stove as temperatures drop. Picture: Henk Kruger. Credit: CAPE ARGUS

They are among the thousands of families who are battening down the hatches this week as a severe cold front heads towards us.

The narrow pathways around the home of Thandi Tununu, 23, and her family are already under water from the weekend rain, prompting residents to don their wellies.

“When it rains a lot this is not a good place to be,” said Tununu, looking miserably around the home she shares with her mother, twin sister and her sister’s three young children.

“There is nothing we can do to stop the water from coming into our homes here. We do what we can to try and save our belongings from being damaged by the water, but at the end of the day it’s always too late.”

The beds have already been placed on top of crates in anticipation of water coming in. The wardrobe is rotting away from being exposed to damp conditions and is barely upright. In the kitchen, Tununu and her mother have attached steel covers to the bottom of kitchen cupboards to try to protect them.

When there is a heavy downpour, they will throw loose sand inside and around their shack to soak up excess water.

“This is all we can do. We have been staying here for 10 years and every winter we have to deal with this problem. Nothing can stop the water from coming in. We sleep with water around us. It is difficult because the water brings the cold with it.

“There is not even a protective covering on our roof to stop the water from seeping through because it is too expensive.

“Also, the water on the ground is not clean. It mixes with the sewage from the drains around us and it is causing the children around here to get sick.”

Tununu showed the Cape Argus some of her nephew’s ailments caused by exposure to toxic sludge. Three-year-old Emihle Tununu’s arms and legs are covered in sores. He was given creams at the clinic.

“We cannot live like this. The government needs to do something to stop the flooding permanently or provide us with houses. They give us food parcels and blankets when we are hit with storms. What does that do? The blankets won’t make the water go away and the food doesn’t last.”

Families across the city will also look for a variety of ways to keep warm this week, which has its own dangers attached to it. Four people, including two children, died in shack or backyard fires at the weekend.

The city’s Disaster Risk Management has called on residents to take care when using candles and paraffin stoves.

Meanwhile City of Cape Town departments have been hard at work to get their winter readiness programme organised in time to help prevent flooding.

There is a particular focus on poorer areas, often the most severely affected.

The Disaster Risk Management Centre will ensure that all rescue and disaster assistance agencies are on standby. They also have an early-warning system in place so that the city has as much time as possible to prevent disasters.

In the past month, residents have been given tips on how to raise floor levels, divert flood waters, and reduce the health hazards associated with stagnant water.

The Human Settlements Directorate also has plans to reduce the impact of the inevitable winter storms and flooding.

It is asking residents to contact the city’s call centre for sandbags to keep water out. Flood kits will be distributed where flooding has been severe.

Solid Waste Management is clearing stormwater drains to prevent blockages.

Social Development and Early Childhood Development will provide aid in the form of food, blankets and toiletries to those affected by winter weather around the city. The city’s field workers are also able to help people who need emergency accommodation, social work services, and rehabilitation services by directing them to one of the city-wide assessment centres.

The city can be reached at 0860 103 089.

For all life- or property-threatening emergencies, call 107 from a landline, or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone.

Disaster Risk Management says people can donate food or blankets at their nearest fire stations.

Spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said there were 30 fire stations in the city.

People can also call the Disaster Risk Management centre on 0809 114 357.

Food or blankets can also be donated to:

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