Pedestrians rush for cover as the effects of Cyclone Eloise were felt in the city yesterday. Picture: Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)
Pedestrians rush for cover as the effects of Cyclone Eloise were felt in the city yesterday. Picture: Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)

Cyclone Eloise wreaks havoc in SA’s north-eastern regions

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Jan 26, 2021

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LIMPOPO, Mpumalanga and South Africa’s north-eastern regions should brace for further rainfall and high wind today as Cyclone Eloise veers west, the South African Weather Service (Saws) said yesterday.

Eloise made landfall in southern Mozambique at about 2.30am on Saturday. It brought heavy rains and strong winds as it headed along the escarpment to the lowveld areas of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the northern parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

Saws said rainfall of between 50mm and 128mm was reported in these areas from 12am on Saturday, with many trees being uprooted, and there was damage to temporary structures and roofs were blown off houses.

Strong surface winds circulating around the centre of Eloise resulted in south-easterly to easterly gale-force winds of around 80km/h yesterday, especially over northern Limpopo.

The forecaster expected Cyclone Eloise to reach the south-western borders of Botswana by tomorrow, and to connect with a system from the Atlantic on Wednesday, which would likely result in rainfall in the North West and north-eastern Cape.

Eloise has put South Africa’s transport and other utilities on alert for possible disruptions.

Transnet’s port infrastructure and marine services operating division, the Transnet National Port Authority, put measures in place on Friday to ensure that minimal disruption was experienced by port users should Eloise hit Durban.

The Port of Durban’s general manager, Moshe Motlohi, said terminal operators had been directed to have business continuity plans on standby for adverse weather conditions.

Transnet’s National Ports Authority has an agreement with the South African Weather Service on an early warning system to help manage risks of adverse weather conditions, he said.

The South African Association of Ship Operators and Agents chief executive, Peter Besnard, said that the harbour master had sent out a warning to all lines and vessel agents warning them of the circumstances that could prevail.

“Before the storm reached our shores we were plagued by wind in literally all coastal ports for a number of days, impacting heavily on ships berthing and port operations, and that coupled with labour issues from the Covid-19 pandemic and now the storm will surely add to the current woes being experienced,” said Besnard.

Eskom also put contingency plans in place on Friday, as most of its power stations are in Mpumalanga. Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said they had experienced no negative impact from the storm by mid-afternoon yesterday and there had also been no impact on the Cahora Bassa transmission line infrastructure between South Africa and Mozambique, lines that were reinforced a few years ago after similar storms.

Typically, heavy rainfall for four or fewer days does not pose a significant threat to power station operations, but continuous heavy rainfall for more than four days can hamper coal handling at the power stations and at the mines supplying them.

Some power stations in Mpumalanga have been experiencing ash dam constraints, and continuous heavy rainfall over these power stations could hamper operations and recovery efforts already under way.

Extra staff were in place to attend to faults as they occurred.

The park, made up of around two million hectares of wild land that runs through Mpumalanga and Limpopo, was in the high impact zone as Eloise devastated parts of neighbouring Mozambique just days before.

South African National Parks communications and marketing manager Ike Phaahla said some parts of the park were still under water and could only be accessed once the storm subsided.

“The park has experienced significant rainfall that led to the evacuation of bushveld camps and the closure of gravel roads. The Punda Maria to Shingwedzi main road only reopened today as well as the Mopani Phalaborwa road. Low-lying bridges are submerged and we will have to assess all this once the water subsides.”

Before the arrival of Eloise, the park relocated tourists from areas which were expected to suffer the worst of the storm.

Phaahla said the park would be conducting a flyover to see if any animals were injured or killed during the storm, although he was confident most would survive as animals usually escaped to higher ground before a storm arrived.

Charters Creek in northern KZN had received around 205mm rainfall over the 24 hours by last night, Saws posted on its Twitter account

Komatidraai in Mpumalanga, adjacent to the Mozambican border, received 127mm of rain, while Nelspruit received 116mm.

Parts of Venda and Mbombela in Limpopo also experienced heavy rain over the weekend, resulting in motorists and pedestrians navigating through flooded roads.

Tshwane emergency services spokesperson Charles Mabaso urged motorists to drive with caution.

“We are fortunate that up to so far no accidents have been reported in the city and no incidents of flash flooding have been reported,” he said.

“We are monitoring various areas that are known to be prone to flash flooding as well as our low-water bridges.”

Mabaso said the City had appointed teams across the metro to respond to any outages or service delivery disruptions because of the rains.

Power outages were expected, and electricity teams were on standby to ensure they responded speedily to prevent prolonged outages.

Areas such as Groenkloof, Muckleneuk and Sunnyside were affected and residents were urged to be patient as teams fixed this.

There are some low-lying roads and bridges in the metro which in the past have seen flooding and vehicles being swept away.

“I would like to advise motorists to travel carefully in the wet weather. Should we face prolonged heavy rains the Tshwane teams will move to close the roads and bridges which can flood and become a hazard to travellers,” said Mayor Randall Williams.

“Please be safe on the roads this week as you travel to work and take the necessary precautions. We are monitoring the weather daily and taking advice from the South Africa Weather Service to ensure that we respond swiftly if the weather becomes more severe.”

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