Countrywide clean-up after heavy rains

2010-12-18 08:20

Cleaning-up operations started in Johannesburg

yesterday following heavy rainfall that displaced at least 1 200

families, according to Johannesburg Emergency Services (JES).

Spokesman Percy Morokane said: “It’s dry today, but the real work begins now.”

JES was keeping a close eye on “hot spots” such as Alexandra, the Buccleuch Interchange, the corner of Rivonia and Witkoppen roads in Sunninghill, some parts of the R59 on the Vereeniging road and some parts of the West Rand near Florida Lake.

“Motorists should exercise caution when travelling in all low-lying areas,” said Morokane.

Floods resulting from heavy rain in Johannesburg over the past few days on Wednesday left thousands of people displaced.

“About 1 200 families have been housed in community halls and schools around the city,” he said.

People were being accommodated at Kliptown, Protea South and Orlando West community halls in Soweto, as well as Orlando High School and a church hall in Orlando, while a church in Alexandra was also helping out.

“We are calling upon big business to please donate food parcels, clothing, whatever they can to mitigate the effects of the near disaster,” said Morokane.

“Gift of the Givers, as well as Shoprite Checkers, distributed relief materials to those that were displaced in Orlando West.”

He said JES was calling on all big businesses and the public to “bring a smile to the most vulnerable”.

Whoever wanted to donate should contact the disaster management centre on 072 436 6870 or 011 375 6009.

Due to the recent heavy rains in most parts of the country, sluice gates in some dams were released yesterday afternoon as a measure of controlling the flow of water and to avert any possible floods, said the Department of Water Affairs.

The affected dams included the Vaal, Gariep, Bloemhof and Vanderkloof.

Departmental engineers warned downstream users such as farmers and holidaymakers at Bloemhof to be particularly cautious as 600 cubic metres of water would be released at Bloemhof.

Residents in Christiana, Barkly West and Douglas were likely to be affected by the outflow, the department said.

On Friday Rustenburg municipal spokesman Butler Matlapeng said 70 flood victims were rescued by the local municipality in Sunrise Park north of the city.

“The victims were 50 adults and 20 children,” Matlapeng said.

Since Thursday the residents had been evacuated by disaster management and were currently housed by the Impala mining company in one of their hostels.

He said the municipality provided the affected residents with 76 mattresses and 76 blankets.

Matlapeng said no one was injured and the evacuation was still ongoing.

“If there is a need for more people to be helped, we are more than willing to assist in any other communities within the Rustenburg municipality.”

In the North West, Lieutenant-Colonel Lesego Metsi said their main challenge was the rivers, especially in the Bloemhof and Christiana areas.

“We are afraid that the rivers will overflow and there are houses situated around the river,” Metsi said.

He said the level of water was still rising, more especially the Vaal River.

“People should be warned to stay away from rivers. We are worried that there will be a lot of drowning incidents.”

Spokesman for the Ekurhuleni metro police department, Kobeli Mokheseng, said the scars of the showers were still visible on Black Reef Road just underneath the N3 freeway bridge where Masakhane Road had to be closed to traffic on Thursday between Heidelberg Road and Sontonga Road due to a Tsantsawane river that overflowed.

“We responded to accidents reported and fortunately no fatalities or casualties were recorded, except for people who were evacuated due to their houses being flooded.”

All roads that were closed on Thursday have been re-opened, but metro police warned of debris left behind following the heavy rains.

Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said things in the Johannesburg area were back to normal yesterday.

“Everything seemed fine. The roads we had to block off were all fine today,” Minnaar said.

He said there was a lot of water that dammed up on the highways on Thursday, but by the afternoon most of it had dried up.

The areas of Henley on Klip, Rothdene and Daleside were also affected by flood waters yesterday after it received more than 175mm of rain, Midvaal Local Municipality said.

The water flowing into the Klipriver from Johannesburg and Ekuruleni resulted in widespread flooding.

Community members in the affected areas were evacuating their homes and finding alternative accommodation, the municipality said.

“This is a terrible tragedy when so many families are preparing to go away for the Christmas holidays and the Midvaal municipality will do all we can to assist,” said Mayor Timothy Nast.

ER24 spokeswoman Vanessa Jackson said yesterday that emergency services had their hands full rescuing people affected by flooding after the chaos caused in Johannesburg on Thursday.

She said it was determined late on Thursday that 85 people were rescued from flooded areas in and around Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The woman whose vehicle was swept away late on Thursday afternoon on Fochville Road crossing over the Rietspruit just outside of Vanderbijlpark was found dead in her car yesterday morning, Jackson said.

Around 9am, her car was found floating upside down in the river. Rescuers battled for almost two hours to pull the vehicle to shore because currents in the rivers were very strong.

“The 35-year-old woman was found to be still sitting in the driver’s seat of the Blue Citi Golf and she is presumed to have drowned.”

A flash flood caused the road to become severely waterlogged. A bystander contacted the police and said the vehicle had been swept about 200m into the river.

ER24 urged the public to be aware of the danger of waterlogged bridges.

“Because of strong currents in rivers that are now crossing the road, there is a huge possibility that the current will sweep your car off the bridge and into the river.”

Police were looking for the body of a 28-year-old woman who drowned in Sharpeville.

Warrant Officer Aubrey Moopeloa said onlookers saw her drown on Thursday.

She apparently screamed for help, but the water was too deep for them to assist her.

Road Traffic Management Corporation’s spokesman, Ashraf Ismail, said the heavy rain caused damage to mainly secondary or rural roads, causing potholes.

He warned drivers to be careful when negotiating the potholes as they could cause an accident or damage a car.

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