Somerset West built on floodplain - scientist

2013-11-20 14:16
Somerset West. (Photo: Zine Sapula)

Somerset West. (Photo: Zine Sapula)

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Somerset West flash flood from the air

2013-11-18 08:45

Severe weather has affected thousands of people in the Western Cape. Watch this aerial footage of the Somerset West flooding. WATCH

Cape Town – A large residential and business area including the flooded Vergelegen Medi-Clinic is built on top of a floodplain making it a high flood risk area, according to a local scientist.

“There is only one arm of the river left and that is the one going through the town. The area occupied by the other arm has been built up,” DH Environmental Consulting aquatic scientist, Dr Bill Harding, told News24.

A large area of the former river has been built-up with shopping centres, retirement villages, and the Vergelegen Medi-Clinic.

The Medi-Clinic was the hardest hit as patients had to be relocated to nearby hospitals.

According to Harding Somerset West is supposed to have a flood management scheme for the Lourens River.

“Part of the management scheme is to build a big dam,” he said, “but even if they build that there is not enough space to take the peak [water] off”.


The Somerset West Bridge can only take a flood of approximately 70 cubic meters per second whereas the 15 October flood event saw 200-300 cubic meters of water per second.

“So only a third of that will fit under the existing bridge. The [excess] water is going to want to go’s going to want to go where the river historically went,” he said.

 Harding said there had been a plan in place to prevent the flood impact but that it did not materialise and warnings have been ignored.

“There was supposed to be a channel going through the hospital, a big flood alleviation channel that should have dumped the water in the field south of the Sir Lowry’s Pass road.”

The City of Cape Town was unable to provide comment at the time of publication.

See Dr Bill Harding's blog

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Read more on:    cape town  |  floods

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