Havoc as rain keeps on pouring

2010-01-31 10:13

INCESSANT rains have wreaked havoc across the country leaving at

least five people dead, flooding bridges, roads and residential areas and laying

waste to crops.

Yesterday, Johannesburg emergency services workers rescued one

person and were still searching for another after the car they were travelling

in was swept off a bridge in Fairlands, Johannesburg.

This came after a mother and her six-month-old baby boy died when

their house was swept away during overnight flooding in Tembisa on the East Rand

on Tuesday.

In Taung in North West, a 21-year-old off-duty fireman was swept

away by floods while trying to cross a bridge on Wednesday. Villages in the area

were waterlogged with most gravel roads virtually inaccessible and bridges

damaged by floods.

In Standerton, Mpumalanga, a woman drowned after her car was swept

off a bridge during heavy rainfall on Tuesday.

In the Northern Cape, one man died and three children were still

missing after being trapped in a flooded subway in De Aar on ­Tuesday.

Maize farmers in the central Free State and North West were also

counting their losses, predicting that as much as 50% of their crop could have

been destroyed by the massive downpours.

Free State Agriculture stated that some parts of the province had

­already received more than their yearly rainfall this month alone.

“There are, for example, parts in the Bothaville area that received

200mm to 350mm rain in one week.”

“Damage was estimated at millions of rands. Loss of crops was

­estimated at between 25% and 50%.

“The opposite effect of a drought was happening,” explained ­Kobus

Laubscher, chief executive of Grain SA . “The plants are drowning because of

lack of oxygen.”

Bacterial diseases were also reportedly spreading through the crops

due to the ever-present moisture. Despite the damage, Laubscher added that rain

was always welcomed by the farmers. A meeting would be held tomorrow between

Free State Agriculture, disaster management services and the relevant provincial

departments “to discuss and put together a disaster action plan with the help of

Free State Agriculture’s structures”.

Lucky Dlamini of the SA Weather Service said: “The persistent rains

were not out of the ordinary. The eastern parts of the country (a large area

covering the North West to Limpopo) receive most of their rain in the summer

months and thus the rainfall which has fallen over Gauteng over the last few

months is normal for this time of year and should be expected.”

He added that the eastern half of the country usually experienced

significant rainfall in January.

Dlamini said Gauteng could still experience more rain with isolated

scattered showers and thunderstorms in the next few days.

According to the weather bureau’s seven day forecast,

thundershowers were also on the cards for large parts of North West, Mpumalanga

and Free State over the next few days. Northern Cape could expect clear skies

over the coming days.

The Vaal Dam in Gauteng and ­Bloemhof Dam in North West were above

their capacity and sluice gates had to be opened to drop water levels. Vaal Dam

area manager Marinus de Wilde said the Vaal River burst its banks, leading to

flooding in the nearby areas.

He said two bridges in Vereeniging were covered with water because

of the flooding and were closed on Friday. He added that the body would do

everything necessary to control the high levels of ­water in the dam.

Vaal dam’s protection services’ chief Jabu Mokoena said the last

time the dam was at its present level was more than a decade ago.

He warned people staying in low-lying areas to stay ­indoors during

thunderstorms, away from flooded areas.

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