Bid to get floods declared National State of Disaster

Pupils brave the icy weather as they walk to school in Khayelitsha on Wednesday. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Independent Newspapers

Pupils brave the icy weather as they walk to school in Khayelitsha on Wednesday. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 11, 2024


The Western Cape government has set its sights on having the floods declared a National State of Disaster to enable “intensive responses” as widespread torrential rain continues to wreak havoc with 14 000 structures damaged.

The intense cold front is expected to press on until Saturday with the South African Weather Service (Saws) forecasting that it would need to issue a level 8 warning for today because of disruptive rainfall.

Due to this alert, Western Cape Education MEC David Maynier announced the decision to close schools in the Cape Town metro, Cape Winelands, Overberg and parts of the West Coast district on Wednesday in the interests of pupil and teacher safety.

He said all other schools in the remaining districts would remain open unless approval had been granted for their closure, but this would be done on a case-by-case basis.

“The schools received official notice of the closure from the head of department, and have been requested to communicate the closures to parents.

(Affected schools are in the) metro central education district, metro east, metro north, metro south, Cape Winelands, Overberg, (and) circuit one and two of the West Coast district (Malmesbury and Piketberg areas). Our default position is always to keep schools open, but we are mindful of the severity of the warnings in place and the damage already caused in certain areas,” said Maynier.

As of yesterday, 137 schools have reported some form of damage to infrastructure, either as a result of flooding or strong winds.

According to Maynier, most of the cases were minor, while 49 required urgent attention. Local Government MEC Anton Bredell said 50 000 people had been affected since Friday.

City Disaster Risk Management Centre (DRMC) spokesperson Sonica Lategan said assessments by Wednesday indicated that more than 14 000 structures had been affected by varying degrees of flooding or wind damage.

“Assessments will continue to determine the extent to which communities have been impacted.

“Over the past two days, NGO partners, including Gift of the Givers, Ashraful Aid, Mustadafin, Islamic Relief, Al-Imdaad and the Warehouse, have facilitated soft relief including handing over more than 20 000 meals, 2 550 blankets and 2 450 beanies to affected communities in Khayelitsha, Lwandle, Gugulethu, Philippi, Masiphumelele and Tafelsig, amongst others.”

Drakenstein Municipality spokesperson Riana Geldenhuys said the municipality started evacuating groups of residents of Newton, and Wellington as a safety precaution after it was notified of a farm dam in the area being at risk of dam wall failure.

“Due to heavy rainfall over the last couple of days, combined with high ground saturation levels in the Bo-Dal Dam area and more predicted rains, the municipal teams started to pre-emptively evacuate the first group last night (Tuesday). This followed the assessment of a dam specialist. The municipality also redirected the water overflow away from houses with digger loaders and sandbags. All residents of Newton, up to Jan van Riebeeck Drive, will be voluntarily evacuated to ensure their safety.”

In certain residential areas such as Paarl, Paarl East, Wellington, Hermon and Mbekweni, Drakenstein Municipality has been responding to incidents of localised flooding by providing the affected households with sandbags and plastic sheeting to help isolate and keep water out of their homes.

Speaking at a virtual Western Cape government media briefing in response to the inclement weather, provincial disaster management chief director Colin Deiner said major damage to structures and flooded roads had been reported in the City of Cape Town.

“In the West Coast District, areas under Cederberg, such as Citrusdal and Wupperthal (have been affected).

There have been on-and-off evacuations of about 14 000 people. Some people returned to their homes and others remained in the halls and shelters.

“The health sector reported False Bay Hospital and Khayelitsha had electrical disruptions but (supply) was restored.

Retreat CHC boundary wall was damaged, temporary fencing was provided.

Agriculture damages were (recorded) in the West Coast and Overberg districts.

We will request the classification of the National State of Disaster to enable intensive responses,” said Deiner.

He said there has been no impact on air operations, but shipping movements were affected.

Transnet announced on Tuesday that it halted shipping movements at some ports, citing safety reasons as strong winds had created high swells.

Premier Alan Winde said: “We want to urge the public to listen to our officials, they know best. When they request people to evacuate, please follow instructions. This also goes to motorists and other people when it comes to use of the roads.”

Cape Times