By Lindiwe Pakati
During March, the Eastern Cape Province experienced severe weather conditions, leaving scores of learners and locals without shelter.
Roads and bridges have been swept off, rivers overflowing to total capacity, and those that need to cross to the other side have had to postpone their travelling arrangements due to the inaccessibility of local places.
According to a source in Coffee Bay, rain has left many schools destroyed, shelters flown away, and some walls fallen down. In addition, the rain caused a disturbance at the local college KSD TVET College at the Coffee Bay Campus, and one person is still missing in these floods.
These weather patterns have impacted the local economy in the Coffee Bay area, as hotels and resorts have had to cancel bookings of tours and visitors to the nearby beaches.
In Port St Johns many people had to flee their homes to find warmth in nearby shelters, as the town was flooded with water, making it impossible for businesses to operate, as water had damaged most of their stock.
Speaking to Rural Action for Climate Resilience (RACR), Port St Johns mayor councillor Mlombile-Cingo said the roads in the town have been destroyed, the road to Majola has been disrupted, and most of the schools on this route have had to halt schooling. The mayor said five learners from Gcinumthetho Senior Secondary School were struck by lightning; however, no fatalities were reported, just minor injuries and they were being treated.
“Even though we are unable to quantify the level of damage yet, the roads have been demolished, houses have been flooded, and even in the CBD a lot of damage has been done,” Cingo said.
She said the OR Tambo District Municipality and the Gift of the Givers have promised to assist in mitigating the damage through donations and food parcels.
Education across the province came to a standstill as floods kept pouring with no mercy, and most of the municipalities suffered losses from this storm this time.
The Eastern Cape Department of Education spokesperson Vuyiseka Mboxela told RACR that the damage was seen much in the Chris Hani District, where five schools were affected, and infrastructure is completely tarnished.
In terms of schools that were affected by the floods in the province, she said the department was already in plans to renovate at least 120 Schools in the province, and now since the floods, the ones which have been destroyed by the floods will now be adopted in this renovation plan which the Department of Education had been planning.
She said about 60 Schools across the province would be adopted to the facelift as planned by the Department of Education.
Mboxela said the damaged road infrastructure made it completely difficult for the rescue team to access some schools.
Meanwhile, the Department of Community Safety and Transport said the custodians of this damage have been notified, and engineers have been dispatched to assess the level to which these floods have caused on the R61 route.
The spokesperson for the department, Unathi Binqose, said the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) and the Transport Department stakeholders are working hard to assess the kind of intervention that will be needed on that route.
“The damage on the R61 near Port St Johns, the Eastern Cape Department of Transport as well as Sanral, who are custodians of that road, are aware of that situation; engineers have been despatched to assess the extent of damage and the kind of intervention that would be required, however as things stand now, only one lane is operational on the spot where the mudslide has happened, the damage there is caused by a mudslide due to the flooding that Port St Johns experienced,” Binqose said,
Binqose urged all motorists to be vigilant and adhere to instructions as given by the law enforcement officers who are on the ground to assist.
* This story was produced through the Youth Citizen Journalism Fellowship, an initiative of the Rural Action for Climate Resilience project, which is co-funded by the EU and Heinrich Boell Foundation.