By Murray Williams, Nontando Mposo and Zodidi Dano
Cape Town - Driving rain has caused flooding in low-lying areas across the peninsula, leaving tens of thousands of residents destitute and at least one man dead.
The man was one of two found by police huddled under sodden cardboard. The second man was taken to hospital in a critical condition.
Informal settlements were flooded, there was a large rock slide on to Chapman’s Peak Drive, and houses in Somerset West were flooded after the Lourens River burst its banks.
And it’s not over – cloudy, cold, wet and windy conditions will persist until Sunday as a series of cold fronts hit the Western Cape. The South African Weather Service has warned of snow on high ground, localised flooding in low-lying areas, strong winds and rough seas.
Charlotte Powell of the City’s Disaster Risk Management said many informal settlements had been affected across the Western Cape. They included Strandfontein, Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha, Philippi, Hout Bay, Edgemead, Kraaifontein and Lotus River.
People posted reports of flooding on the Western Cape Traffic Facebook page. There were reports of flooding in Glamis Close in Maitland; the Engen garage on the corner of Vanguard and Milton roads, Milnerton; Giel Basson near Plattekloof, Montague Gardens; and Monte Vista.
Powell said: “We will remain on high alert in the next two days until the rain subsides. The city’s community halls and centres in high-risk areas have been made available for emergency shelters… NGOs are helping with cooking and food distribution.”
About 30 000 residents have been affected by floods over the past few weeks.
Meanwhile, night shelters were taking strain because of the extreme weather. Hassan Khan of The Haven night shelter in Green Point said the shelter’s intake had doubled in the past two days, and it was expecting more.
“We make a plan to accommodate them by putting extra mattresses on the floor, and hospitals have also donated folding beds.”
Vanessa Jackson, of the private ambulance service ER24, described the discovery of the dead man in Kuils River. “As the Cape Town crew were heading back to their base, they were flagged down by the police on Main Road near the 7Eleven. The police had found two men huddled under wet cardboard boxes, unresponsive, freezing cold and sopping wet. One man was dead. The second was in a critical condition, with his body temperature at a dangerously low level.”
She said he was loaded into the ambulance and paramedics started resuscitation on him during the drive to Tygerberg hospital.
“By the time they got him to hospital, his condition had improved. He was stabilised and moving his limbs.”
The man, as yet unnamed by authorities, remained in hospital on Wednesday night.
Spokesman for Chapman’s Peak Drive, Al-Ameen Kafaar, said there had been a “large” mud-slide halfway along the drive on Wednesday afternoon. “The pass is closed, but we will not be able to assess the situation until the mud is cleared, and we can see what damage there may be to the road.”
Residents of Paarl were evacuated from their homes to community halls on Wednesday night when the Berg river broke its banks, said the DA.
“Community living near the river has been evacuated to community halls,” said Democratic Alliance Drakenstein constituency head Erik Marais.
“With more rain expected tonight, more people are to be moved,” he said.
“Mayor Gesie van Deventer has called up all councillors to go and assist the communities at risk.”
Warnings of immediate danger because of rising water levels would also be sent to farmers next to the river, said Marais.
In Somerset West, the Lourens River burst its banks – flooding the N2 between Victoria Road and Somerset Mall, including a sub-station.
The water surged down a usually-narrow irrigation furrow and flooded the crescent of Penny Lane. Half a dozen houses were flooded as the street became a fast-flowing river.
Resident Andrew Rabie was seen at the rear of a neighbour’s house, smashing down a wall with a sledgehammer to let the water out of his house. Residents were filling plastic bags with stones to build barricades.
Restaurateur Bob McIlroy spent Wednesday evening, clad in a wetsuit, aiding neighbours.
“The river, which was our street, was rising by about an inch every 10 minutes – so about 30 of us urgently tried to barricade several houses. Some weren’t so lucky – the doctor four houses upstream had the river flowing through his kitchen. I’m standing on my stoep – it looks like a holiday house on the Breede.”
Cape Argus and Sapa
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