Cape Town - The estimated cost of damage to provincial roads following devastating storms in recent weeks stands at R500 million, and repairs could continue well into 2024.
In the Overstrand region, one road’s cost has hit amounted to a whopping R80 million to repair.
The Hemel-en-Aarde Road between Caledon and the R43 near Hermanus has been extensively damaged, with most of the road washed away by the flood, which took place over Heritage Day weekend.
The Department of Infrastructure has warned that despite roads visibly seeming safe to travel, damage may exist below the surface.
In Onrus and Hermanus municipalities, the restoration of water took more than a week, while in other parts, damage to pump stations has affected sewerage.
Roads such as Chapman’s Peak, Hemel-en-Aarde, Franschhoek Pass, Clarence Drive in Gordon’s Bay remain closed, and estimation of costs are still being assessed.
Premier Alan Winde said the process would not happen overnight, and called for patience while assessments and repairs were under way.
“Our primary focus is on reopening all affected roads when it is safe to do so. Our repair and reconstruction efforts are a top priority,” he said.
“This process cannot be rushed.
“Unfortunately, this will take time. But we are doing everything we can to return full economic activity to the hardest hit regions.”
Winde reiterated the estimated cost of the damage to provincial roads has been put at R500 million.
Western Cape Minister of Infrastructure Tertuis Simmers said many motorists and pedestrians were taking risks using roads which were not declared safe for usage.
“As our teams on the ground continue with assessments and reconstruction of the damaged road infrastructure, I want to urge all road users to take note of the safety and road closure signs.”
They said Franschhoek Pass’s closure was due to landslides, and that it should reopen by October 31, and that the cost was yet to be made available.
Along Clarence Drive, the department is aiming to reopen one lane of traffic by mid to late December.
The repairs to the failed culvert at this intersection are expected to be complete by late January 2024.
The department said Chapman’s Peak was being assessed and cleared by geo-technical consultants and should be reopened within days.
They said most of the damage were caused by flooding, including silting up of the low water structures and culverts, silting up of side drains, rock falls into side drains, erosion of existing earth drains or erosion behind lined drains and damage of asphalt surfacing on three low water structures.
In the Overstrand region, a rare phenomenon was also experienced during he same period, which happens only once every 200 years due to flooding.
The Onrus Estuary and beach was closed due to damage to the Onrus sewage mainline when the Onrus River flooded its banks on September 25 2023.
It was later established that approximately 140 mm of rain was recorded in 24-hours for the Onrus catchment.
Overstrand Mayco Member for Investment & Infrastructure and Tourism, Councillor Clinton Lerm, said early indications and some hydrology calculations have indicated that the flooding event was most likely a 1 in 200-year event, meaning that this type of flood, generally only occurs once in every 200 years.
“What makes this information so significant is that the floods brought with it tons of debris such as logs, trees, blocks of peat and various other forms of debris, which now lies scattered along the estuary, sandy beach and rocky shoreline of the Onrus River mouth,” he added.
“The phenomenon of “the black sea water” that people witnessed September 25, 2023, at the Onrus beach was the fine, washed-out sediment of the peat-coloured soil of approximately 12 000-year-old Peat Wetland flowing into the ocean.
“Large blocks of peat washed out in the Onrus estuary, covered with Palmiet plants, and can still be seen lying along the banks of the estuary mouth.”
Overstrand Mayor Dr Annelie Rabie said the storm brought municipal issues which saw Hermanus residents without water for days, including backlogs with withdrawal of sewer conservancy tanks in the Kleinmond and damage to pump stations, which will cost millions to repair.
Water has since been restored to residents in greater Hermanus.
“We are working on the backlog with additional tankers from a private contractor and from the Gansbaai Administration.
“The Bosplasie sewer pipeline and pump station have also been damaged, with 500 metres of pipeline being washed away.
“Four sewer pump stations in Stanford have also been damaged.
“Preliminary estimates indicate that the damage is R6 million.
“Currently, our consulting engineers are working on different options for the permanent repair of the De Bos supply line and once this is done and costed.”
Rabie added there were a number of enquiries about the use of the dysfunctional three dams in Fernkloof.
Rabie said one of these dams cannot be used as it is cracked, and the other two were filled with raw water, which was used for irrigation at the Fernkloof Nature Reserve and the Hermanus Golf Club.
“The pipes from these dams have also been washed away. ”For these reasons, water from the dams cannot be used for human consumption,” stated Dr Rabie.