Durban — It was a case of deja vu for many Tongaat residents when heavy rains last Saturday claimed the lives of two people and caused widespread flooding of homes and businesses, damage to infrastructure, and displaced some.
The downpour that lasted an hour caused the Hlawe River in Tongaat to burst its banks, just as it did twice in 2022 (April and May) and caused havoc.
Unwell and heavily medicated, widow Sandra Manikam, living in a low cost housing development on Plane Street, was about to go to bed at about 10pm that night when she heard a neighbour shout “flood”.
Memories of how her one-bedroom dwelling, in which she lives in with her son, was flooded on both occasions in 2022 came rushing back at the sound of the distress call.
“I’m unsure how I got the strength to spring to my feet and deal with what was happening.”
Her son was concerned about his car parked outside, which he purchased two weeks ago.
There was not much he could do as the water level outside had reached bonnet level.
Manikam said the water had risen to knee height in all 44 homes in their neighbourhood.
Both floods in 2022 had done extensive damage to the interior of her home. Realising the dangers the rising water posed, residents were being evacuated from their homes.
One elderly woman with a disability had to be carried out with her bed. Manikam also noticed parents wading through water with frightened children clinging to them.
But she was not prepared to abandon her house.
“I refused to leave. I was prepared to die in my house.”
Manikam said the youth in their community rallied and moved them to the safety of a local temple hall.
Manikam’s nephews eventually convinced her to leave her home. All she took was her cellphone.
Don Perumall, the Tongaat Civic Association’s chairperson, said it was a “case of deja vu” for residents of Tongaat and surrounding areas.
“The water reached a height of one metre in some places.”
Perumall said the affected areas included Gandhi’s Hill, where some residents were washed away, the low cost settlement, two blocks of flats nearby and businesses in the Trurolands industrial area.
Residents and businesses were left without water for a few days and there was further infrastructure damage.
To prevent future catastrophes, Perumall suggested that the Hlawe River be dredged to increase its width and depth, which would ultimately increase its capacity.
Perumall suggested that increasing the width of pipes in the area that carry away stormwater was a measure the eThekwini Municipality should consider to prevent flooding during heavy rainfalls.
He said the municipality needed to run campaigns where residents would be educated on the hazards of dumping especially plastic containers and other material that clogged stormwater drains.
Gugu Sisilana, the municipality’s spokesperson, said their campaigns to educate residents about littering were ongoing and dated back to 2014.