Army on standby for floods

2011-01-14 14:25
Kimberley - The South African National Defence Force was on standby on Friday in case of flooding along the Orange River, after weeks of torrential downpours killed at least 32 people.

The river is expected to reach a flood peak on Friday in the town of Upington, at the edge of the Kalahari Desert in the Northern Cape, as water released from over-filled dams moved downstream.

"It's flooded already, that's why we are there so that if it gets out of hand, we're there to do a quick response," said department of defence spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini.

"This weekend we're going to have a deluge of water coming down and the rivers will be flooded again."

The army search and rescue team lifted 11 marooned people off an island 40km south of Upington this week, while local authorities evacuated 22 families.

South Africa has been hit by heavy rains since December, prompting the opening of flood gates from dams along the Orange River and its main tributary, the Vaal, to ease pressure on capacity levels.

The Orange River is expected to hit a flood peak near its diamond-rich Atlantic Ocean mouth area on Wednesday.

More heavy rain is forecast this weekend for northeast regions including Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Preliminary government figures released on Wednesday said at least 32 people had been killed in bad weather since December.

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