South Africa: Thousands of Homes Flooded As Violent Storm Batters Western Cape

Brothers Mlungisi and Lumgisa Bosman from Malema informal settlement lift a refrigerator to take to a relative because water is ankle-deep in their house.

Roads closed, schools and clinics damaged, rivers burst their banks

  • Heavy rain battered the Western Cape on Tuesday, flooding homes in informal settlements and leaving thousands of people displaced.
  • Western Cape disaster management said about 15,000 people had been affected.
  • Meals had been provided for 8,700 people.
  • Rivers burst their banks and several roads were closed.
  • Extra beds were opened in shelters for homeless people.

Thousands of homes were flooded in informal settlements across the Western Cape on Tuesday as a cold front smashed the province. Roads were closed, schools and clinics were damaged, and some areas were cut off by flooding.

Families in Malema, Siyahlala and Graveyard Pond informal settlements in Philippi had to abandon their homes and had to seek shelter with relatives. Even formal houses were affected by the rain, which is expected to continue till at least Sunday.

Eskom said the extreme weather conditions in the Western Cape had led to multiple faults leaving approximately 13,000 customers without electricity supply.

Eskom technicians had been deployed to attend to the faults but road closures in areas heavily affected by flooding are restricting access.

Thobelani Matshaya from Malema informal settlement told GroundUp he had been up since 5am on Tuesday trying to take water out of his shack. His three children had to miss the first day of the school term.

"My furniture has been damaged beyond repair. I don't know where I will spend the night and the next coming days."

"Children will get sick from this cold," said Matshaya.

Matshaya said people had been trapped inside the informal settlement as exit routes were flooded.

Nobubele Mti from Siyahlala said the water was ankle deep and all his clothing, documents and furniture were soaked. "The government should be building us proper houses, because every winter we know we are going to experience this disaster," said Mti.

U-turn Homeless Ministries opened up two temporary shelters in Kenilworth to accommodate homeless people battered by the cold.

In a press statement, U-turn's Valerie Govender said "the storm has led to a drastic increase in clients seeking shelter at their Homeless Support Centers".

U-turn has partnered with Christ Church Kenilworth to create a temporary shelter with 30 beds and another has been set up at U-Turn's Church House with 30 beds, to add to the 1,300 already available.

"We are appealing to the community to assist us by dropping off blankets, sleeping bags, canned food and thin mattresses to help provide more safe space beds during this storm," Govender said.

She said members of the public could refer people needing emergency accommodation to U-turn's Claremont Homeless Support Centre. "This will be the entry point where clients will have access to showers, clothing and food. Thereafter they will be transported to a safe place to sleep."

Haven CEO Shaddie Valayadum says that there are about 150 beds still available in their 14 shelters, but this will probably change during the day. In the last few days, he says, 44 additional people have come to the shelters.

He says most of the beds available are for women because there are fewer women on the streets. He says even with the cold weather many people will still stay on the street. One of the big problems is that "shelters don't take in couples or families", he says, which is something Haven is looking at. Another problem is drug addiction since shelters have rules.

Valayadum says Haven hopes that offering people a warm meal and a shower will attract them off the streets.

Haven is holding an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss further action and possibly more bed spaces. "We are on standby for disaster management."

The City of Cape Town said Philippi Clinic and Weltevreden Community Health Centre in Samora Machel were closed after damage.

Mayco Member for Community Services and Health, Patricia Van der Ross said the City of Cape Town had about 125 beds still available in its Safe Spaces, most of them in Bellville. She says if shelters are full people can ask the City for assistance.

Colin Deiner, Chief Director for Western Cape Disaster Management, said the adverse weather had hit informal settlements the hardest. About 15,000 people had been affected in the province, with their homes damaged or destroyed.

Denier said the provincial Department of Social Development is working with civic organisations to assist people affected by the storm. "There's a big effort to provide those affected with hot meals and humanitarian aid. Today, the Department of Social Development is providing about 8,700 meals in the affected areas," said Deiner.

The National Department of Human Settlements is also helping accommodate those displaced, while municipalities are making community halls available.

"We had quite a big displacement in ward 99 in Khayelitsha towards the end of last week and they're being sheltered ... Our teams on the ground have said it's been difficult to get residents into shelters. A lot of people opt to move in with relatives and friends," said Deiner

He said their teams have noted high levels of displacement in Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Philippi, Macassar and Driftsands, among others.

Deiner said entry into at least five areas in Wupperthal in the Cederberg region has been cut off.

Disaster Management teams are waiting for the weather to clear before using alternative routes to enter the affected areas. "We'll be working with the South African Search and Rescue Services. They are providing us with four-wheel drive vehicles to take Gift of the Givers into that area with humanitarian aid that's required," said Deiner.

He said 82 schools had been damaged by the weather. "That ranges from schools which have sustained substantial damage to schools that sustained minor damage and can still operate."

Several roads in the Cape Winelands, Overberg, West Coast, Central Karoo and Garden Route regions have been closed. The latest list can be found here.

There were no reports of flood-related fatalities, Deiner said.

Sonica Lategan, spokesperson for the City's Disaster Risk Management, said several rivers and canals were at capacity, with some bursting their banks such as the Eerste River in Macassar was the worst affected.

Lategan said there were also reports of flooded roads across the metropole. Humanitarian agencies were assisting with relief in Khayelitsha, Lwandle and Nomzamo in Strand, Gugulethu, Philippi, Masiphumelele, Philippi East, Mfuleni, Tafelsig and Vygieskraal.

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