Overberg counts the cost of flood damage

By Melanie Gosling Time of article published Apr 14, 2005

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The N2 near Caledon in the Western Cape will be closed for about six weeks after it suffered structural damage in the worst floods the Overberg has seen in more than 60 years.

Henk Matthee, of the Overberg District Municipality, said on Wednesday that a culvert had been washed away on the N2 at Middleton, east of Caledon.

"We've asked a contractor to estimate how long it will be closed for repairs and he estimates six weeks. We've also experienced new problems on the Struisbaai road, which has started to heave," Matthee said.

The Struisbaai and Arniston roads were open, he said, but the road from Bredasdorp to Swellendam was closed, as was the road between Hermanus and Stanger and the Tradou Pass.

"We will try to accommodate traffic, but anyone who comes to the Overberg must realise that we've had serious floods and there will be road delays in several places," Matthee said.

When the Cape Times flew over the Overberg with the SAAF's Oryx helicopter from Ysterplaat's 22 Squadron on Wednesday, many of the farmlands were still inundated. Here and there dead sheep lay where the water had dumped them.

Where the water had subsided, it left huge dongas scoured into the recently ploughed lands and many sections of gravel roads had been completely washed away.

As the helicopter circled above farmsteads, some people on the ground gave the thumbs-up to indicate they did not need help, while others waved their arms to signal that the chopper should land.

Where it was clear that the roads leading to farms had been washed away, or were still flooded, the helicopter, piloted by Col JC Kriegler, touched down near the farmsteads but kept the engines running. Reinard Geldenhuys, head of Overberg District Municipality's disaster management, jumped from the aircraft and ran to establish what help was needed. Most people needed food and came running to collect boxes of fresh bread, water and other supplies.

The chopper also ferried a generator to one farm where the power was off.

All along the coast between Arniston and Betty's Bay, where rivers flowed into the sea, they created huge semi-circles of orange-brown mud which stretched far out into the ocean, carrying tons of the country's precious topsoil out to sea.

Keith Jordaan, municipal manager for Bredasdorp, said they would meet provincial officials on Friday to finalise the costs of flood damage.

Thereafter a decision would be be taken whether to apply to have the region declared a disaster area. This would release funds for repairs.

"Damage will definitely run into many millions of rands," Jordaan said.

He wanted to discourage visitors from coming to the Overberg to see the flood damage because of the poor condition of some of the roads.

Many people who were housed in community halls in Bredasdorp and Napier, moved back to their homes on Wednesday, but several are still been given cooked meals.

The municipality is looking at resettling people from Napier's shack town, which was badly damaged by the flood, in another area above the 50-year flood line.

At Bredasdorp's sub-economic housing township of Kleinbegin, residents were still trying to wash the mud from houses and possessions.

Jane Oostendal, her furniture drying outside, said "a river" had flowed through her house, ruining carpets, furniture and clothes.

"But God blessed us because we still have a roof over our heads," she said.

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