Cape Town - Sweat drips down the face of 69-year-old Hansie Alberts who has cycled nearly 36 kilometres on the Hemel en Aarde Road, which has been nearly washed away due to storm damage.
His four hour journey was to purchase food for his family in Karwyderskraal after supplies began depleting in local shops.
Alberts is one of 16 000 people affected by this week’s Level 9 storm and flood damage around the Western Cape which saw a R1.4 billion agricultural loss to areas such as the Overberg where he lives, the Cape Winelands, Central Karoo and Garden Route.
Alberts is panting as he is now forced to push his bicycle down the treacherous terrain which has large chunks of road and tar ripped out of it.
“I have travelled to Hermanus to purchase bread and milk and potatoes for my family of seven,” said Alberts.
“We have one shop in Karwyderskraal but it has run out of supplies.”
Brazen cyclists passed-by Alberts, some daring to ride along the edge of where the road had cracked and split.
Authorities who were restricting access to the road, warned our team to be cautious as we drove along the winding and damaged road, as the Weekend Argus travelled to the badly affected towns.
In Botrivier, Humanitarian organisations, Gift of the Givers have brought food parcels, blankets and personal hygiene items and baby care packs to 150 people affected after the N2 bridge, R43 collapsed and washed away, leading to Caledon.
The bridge and road became a historical and heritage landmark for residents who have dubbed it the Rooihuwel bridge, naming it after a farm.
Now, it resembles an earthquake scene with metres of road, debris and tar which has been ripped off and washed away as litres of water from the river gushes by.
For the community of Botrivier, the bridge served as a short cut to Caledon and was part of their childhood memories.
Shirley Edon, 43, was just 3 when she took a memorable photograph standing on the bridge which had become part of their history: “I was born nearby that bridge on a farm called Rooihuwel in 1980.
“I was just a child when my parents took a photograph of me standing on that bridge which is no longer there and I am very heartbroken because it has become part of our heritage here.
“That bridge could be over 50 years old, if not older.
“It served as a short cut to Caledon and with the petrol prices increasing, motorists will have to travel via Hermanus and others to get to other communities.”
This week, the Western Cape Government Disaster Management Team said reconstruction and repair to the bridge could take several months if not longer.
Pierre Jean De Villiers who lives near a tiny riverbank fought off a snake and the storming water from entering his home.
He carried bags of sand and had to make heaps of sand around his home to prevent flooding.
As school children made their way home, a construction vehicle was used to push storm debris out of the way.
In Caledon, along the N2 leading to Botrivier, uprooted trees and road barriers lay sprallwd along the road.
In Napier in Trade Street which is home to small holdings, flocks of sheep which used to graze along the bank of the river which had a small roadway and bridge were gone.
The entire road and bridge had been washed away and there was damage to small holdings.
In Villiersdorp, at Helderstroom Prison, authorities were forced to use boats to transport food.
The prison utilises a generator and authorities have confirmed that prisoners are safely being guarded and no visitors will be allowed until the facility becomes fully accessible.
Candice Van Reenen of the Department of Correctional Services said supplies had to be transported to prisoners: “The facility has largely been cut off due to the access road, which is located within a low lying area.
“The Correctional Centre housing inmates and state houses itself, has however not been impacted by rising water levels, which means that there is no need to evacuate inmates from centres or officials who reside on the terrain.
“DCS has called on the assistance of the South African Police Service (SAPS) in ensuring that critical supplies are delivered to the facility, through the aid of SAPS boats.
“To date, SAPS have ensured the safe ferrying of over 600 loaves of bread, mielie-meal, pap and other essential groceries to enable an adequate supply food is available.
“Electricity supply to the area at large has been impacted.
“Fortunately, the facility is managing its generator capacity through close monitoring of diesel levels until full electricity supply has been restored.”
Our team travelled to Hermanus where thousands of people have been left without water following the storm damage.
Anton Bredell, MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning said Hermanus suffered extensive damages to water supply infrastructure during the floods, and emergency services are currently supplying water with trucks and tankers for the entire community.
Dmitri Jacobs together with his neighbours carried buckets of water, some transporting their supplies in wheelbarrows.
“The storm was so strong that it broke our main pipes and the municipality is now dealing with the muddy grounds in order to repair it,” he said.
In other parts of Hermanus, farmland resembled a dry Summer season with crops laying flattened to the ground.