Cape Town - Somerset West and Strand were worst affected by flash flooding in the Western Cape on Friday, as emergency services remained on high alert, with weather forecasters saying Cape Town should expect pouring rain throughout Saturday.
Streets were turned into torrents as a flash flood half-swallowed Main Road in Somerset West late Friday afternoon in the worst flooding seen in the area in years.
The heavens opened shortly after 4.30pm, accompanied by booming thunder and flashes of lightning. By 9pm the Lourens River had burst its banks, and flood water had risen to almost a metre on some roads in the eastern suburbs of the town.
Desperate women were seen battling to chop holes in brick walls in a bid to release water building up inside their homes.
At Vergelegen MediClinic, some wards had to be evacuated as the water rose, and civil protection agencies blocked off roads across the suburbs as water levels rose bonnet-high in places. Weekend Argus reporters saw at least a dozen houses knee-deep in water.
Shortly after 9pm, Rescue Services were deploying rubber ducks to reach certain homes.
The strain on stormwater pipes and drains was evident as manhole covers began popping under the strain. In the streets, dozens of cars’ engines gave up, leaving commuters stranded and drivers swerved to avoid collisions.
Several pedestrians trying to cross roads were knocked over by the force of the water generated by passing cars.
In Bizweni Avenue, a narrow irrigation canal running from the historic wine farms further up the valley, burst its banks and flooded a house. Members of the Hodge family tried to stem the tide with frantic bailing, but were soon overwhelmed.
Claire Hodge, of the company A Vintage Affair, told Weekend Argus on Friday night: “Our entire house is around 25cm under water … every room in the house, every corridor, every cupboard is shin-deep in rainwater. And it’s still rising …”
A nearby resident stood surveying a flooded garden and street: “This is not floodwater from a burst river, this is solely from the sky, and solely in the past hour.”
Closer to the False Bay coast, African adventurer Riaan Manser said from his 4x4 in Beach Road, Strand: “People are flooded inside their cars, people are trapped in their cars in their garages. Their cars are waterlogged, soaking their engines, but the drivers can’t get out – they can’t open their doors. They’ve just given up…”
He said Beach Road was closed. “I’ve been here for 18 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. We are so lucky tonight wasn’t spring tide too – it would have been even worse.”
At the Post Office in Somerset West, commuters tried to reach the nearby taxi rank to get home, but some were too afraid to cross the turbulent, muddy waters.
Late on Friday the South African Weather Service’s Cape Town office said there was a 100 percent chance of rain on Saturday, which was expected to spread to the southern Cape.
The city, meanwhile, said it was deploying response teams and engineering crews to assess water levels, according to Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, Disaster Risk Management spokesperson. - Weekend Argus
l To report flooding, blocked drains and service disruptions, call 0860 103 089 or SMS to 31373. For road closures, contact the city’s Transport Information Centre on 0800 65 64 63, and for emergencies, dial 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone.