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Heavy rains cause destruction in SA

City of Johannesburg MMC for Community Development, Margaret Arnolds.

The City of Johannesburg MMC for Community Development, Margaret Arnolds, visited some of the victims of the floods in Klipspruit West to arrange disaster management. Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 25, 2023


Rustenburg – Heavy rains and flooding continue to wreak havoc across the country.

Some residents in North West have lost their houses, livestock and other belongings. Roads have also been damaged.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nono Maloyi has urged communities throughout the province, especially those staying in low-lying areas, to exercise caution as the province continues to experience above-normal rainfall.

In Lekwa-Teemane in the Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati district, all the residents, mainly business owners, have been evacuated after the Bloemhof Dam sluice gates were opened.

At Deelpan in the Tswaing Local Municipality, more than 20 people were evacuated and accommodated at a local community hall. In January and December 2021 the village was hit by severe flooding.

Maloyi said in a statement: “We would like to let communities know that our officials are on high alert and continue to monitor the situation. The roads are slippery and we therefore urge road users to drive carefully.

“Those in the proximity of the rivers or dams must monitor the water levels and must evacuate as soon as the water level rises.

“Although no major incidents have been reported since the start of heavy downpours, members of the public are urged to contact their municipal disaster management centres in case of flooding or any other incidents.”

Limpopo Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs MEC Basikopo Makamu and the Limpopo House of Traditional Leaders have urged communities to be cautious when travelling in the forecasted wet and stormy conditions.

“The provincial disaster management teams at Mopani and Vhembe districts are on high alert as Tropical Cyclone Freddy is expected over the weekend,” said Makamu.

“We have just had heavy downfalls in the past few days that resulted in untold damage – vehicles submerged and swept away, trapped homeowners on roofs, collapsed walls and decimated shacks and houses.

“Due to the expected heavy downpours over this weekend, many areas will be flooded, rivers will be overflowing across a number of rivers, some people might lose properties, and infrastructure like buildings, roads, electricity and bridges might also be damaged.”

Freddy, which has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, was expected to hit north-eastern parts of South Africa at the weekend.

Areas expected to be affected by the storm are parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

A forecaster for the South African Weather Service, Lehlohonolo Thobela, told News24 that the storm was moving towards Mozambique and was likely to make landfall on Friday, with South Africans feeling the effect of the storm over the weekend.

In the Free State, eight hippos reportedly escaped from a game farm after floods battered Vierfontein near the Vaal River on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Hydrological Monitoring and Forecasting System showed a decrease in water inflow into the Vaal Dam for the first time in four days.

“Despite this forecast, the 12 opened sluice gates will remain open and the water outflow at Bloemhof Dam will be kept at 3 200 cubic metres per second in order to allow the water levels in the dams to be at their required capacity. The Vaal Dam is currently sitting at 119% full, while the Bloemhof Dam is at 109.67%,” the department said.

The acting director-general of water infrastructure at the Department of Water and Sanitation, Leonardo Manus, said the dam level was still too high and needed to be lowered.

“We will not be reducing the outflow by closing the gates as yet because the dam level is still too high and needs to be lowered quickly to open more flood absorption capacity.”

North West University academic in the African Centre for Disaster Studies, Professor Livhuwani Nemakonde, said the heavy rainfall experienced in South Africa in recent weeks was due to a combination of factors.

“Climatologists have indicated that this is because of the La Niña phenomenon. La Niña (Spanish for little girl) is the opposite of an El Niño (little boy), which usually predicts low rainfall for South Africa.

"In simple terms, this means that most parts of the country will receive above-average summer rainfall, and it is for this reason that seven of the nine provinces received huge amounts of rainfall that led to flooding," Nemakonde said.

He said the impact of the floods was quite high, particularly in parts of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

“Obviously, the amount of rainfall plays a major role, but other human-related factors such as residing in low-lying areas, flood plains, riverbanks and poor infrastructure contribute to the impact of floods.”

The government declared a national state of disaster on February 13 to enable an intensive, co-ordinated response to the impact of floods that were affecting Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, the Northern Cape and North West provinces.

Vincent Magwenya, spokesperson for President Cyril Ramaphosa, said: “The National Disaster Management Centre has received reports ranging from flooded homes, vehicles swept away by floodwaters and overflowing dams and sewerage facilities to the loss of basic infrastructure and damage to roads, bridges and a Limpopo hospital.

“In agriculture, farmers have suffered crop and livestock losses, and anticipate further losses as the South African Weather Service predicts that current heavy rains will persist.”