Afternoon downpour wreaks havoc in PMB

2008-02-12 00:00

Yesterday's late afternoon downpour is said to have resulted in the worst flooding in years in Pietermaritzburg.

A number of houses were washed away in the Jika Joe informal settlement on Ash Road after the Dorpspruit burst its banks and water began rushing into the settlement from Manning Avenue.

Msunduzi municipal manager Rob Haswell said more than a dozen homes were washed away and hundreds were damaged along both banks.

Disaster management chief John Gutridge said tents have been pitched on the Tatham soccer field on Manning Avenue for families whose homes were washed away.

Gutridge said last night that the total number of homes washed away was unknown. An assessment of the area will be carried out today.

Haswell said mattresses and blankets were being provided.

He said this is the second time Jika Joe has been hit by recent heavy rains.

"It is clear that we have to come up with a [relocation] plan, as it is inhumane and unacceptable for people to be continually exposed to the elements in this way," said Haswell.

Other homes and businesses were also flooded by overflowing streams and drains.

The Witness was inundated with calls from people with dramatic stories.

One of the worst-hit areas was Cascades. Peter Walton said the Cascades stream was overflowing and flooding Oak Park properties.

Other badly affected areas included Chase Valley, Orient Heights, Prestbury, Hilton, Northdale, and Scottsville.

At Prestbury, the Dorpspruit burst its banks briefly, flooding gardens, and nearly 100 mm of rain was measured in an hour.

The KZN Health Department reported major damage to equipment and infrastructure on the 16th floor of the Natalia Building.

Despite traffic gridlock as rush hour drivers tried to move through flooded roads, Transport Department spokeswoman Zinhle Mngomezulu reported no accidents on provincial roads.

However, Msunduzi traffic spokesman Kenneth Chetty said that two minor accidents on Chatterton Road and at the corner of Alan Paton Drive and Alexandra Road occurred.

Chetty said streets across the city were waterlogged, resulting in very slow-moving traffic, with a major traffic backlog on the main-off ramp from Liberty Midlands Mall leading into Church Street.

A landslide occurred on Old Howick Road, but traffic could still get through. Hours after the downpour, motorists were still manoeuvring through the traffic trying to get home.

nerissag@witness.co.za

* Have you got pics of yesterday's downpour? Send them in here.

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