26 January 2011

South Africa: Tens of Thousands of Families Hit By Floods

Pretoria — More than 14 000 families have been affected by the floods in the country and the damage to infrastructure is running in billions, according to figures from the National Disaster Management Centre.

The report, which is continuously being updated as the rains continue to pour in many parts of the country, shows that in KwaZulu-Natal more than 6271 households have been affected by the floods, followed by 2936 in the Free State, 1540 in Limpopo, 1506 in the Eastern Cape, 1125 in the Northern Cape, 1029 in the North West and 13 in Mpumalanga.

This figure could rise further as Gauteng's numbers still need to be confirmed. There have been no households affected in the Western Cape.

The report, which is compiled from information supplied by the provinces, also shows that at least 13 000 houses have been damaged across the country. KwaZulu-Natal has the highest figure, with 4799 houses damaged. In the Free State, estimates are that between 1400 and 1500 shacks have been washed away.

In the Eastern Cape, North West and Limpopo the numbers are in the thousands, while Gauteng estimates are between 400 and 500 formal and informal houses that have been damaged.

So far, the floods have claimed 85 lives - the highest number of fatalities being reported in KwaZulu-Natal with 44. The Eastern Cape follows with 21 deaths.

In terms of damage to infrastructure, the Free State has estimated the costs to be in the region of R7.7 billion as schools, water dams, bridges, roads, electricity poles and telephone lines have been destroyed.

While damage to the water drainage system in Gauteng was of high concern, it is not yet clear how much it will cost to repair.

According to the South African Weather Services, the rain in Gauteng is set to continue over the next seven days.

Spokesperson for the Johannesburg Emergency Services, Percy Morokane, said they were closely monitoring the situation in all areas prone to flooding.

Tshwane Community Safety spokesperson, William Baloyi, said they had not received any formal reports of flooding. "It shows that our soil structures were able to absorb the waters from those heavy rains," he said, adding that metro police had been deployed to assess the situation in the low lying areas, flat areas, the zones where the velocity of storm water usually run high.

"We want to caution motorists to avoid speeding in rainy weather conditions that they must drive slowly because visibility is usually affected in times of heavy rains and pedestrians must avoid crossing rivers and streams," he said.

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