Time to rebuild after the flood

2012-01-21 19:32

Amos Nkosi (61) has put door frames against the collapsing walls of his rickety mud house as supports.

The torrential rainfall this week flooded his house – situated in the mountainous Shiyalongubo village on the border with Swaziland near Barberton, Mpumalanga – and washed away the bottom part of the wall.

Most parts of Mpumalanga’s Lowveld region and Limpopo were hit by heavy downpours after tropical cyclone Ethel hit the Mozambican coast this week.

In Mpumalanga and Limpopo hundreds of people were left homeless, while the Kruger National Park was flooded, prompting closure of some gates and relocation of tourists.

Simphiwe Kunene, Mpumalanga cooperative governance and traditional affairs spokesperson, said five people died during the floods – one in Tonga, Nkomazi, when a roof collapsed on a man while he was asleep, while the other four drowned in Thaba Chweu and Bushbuckridge.

In villages around Hoedspruit in Limpopo, the army had to use helicopters to rescue about 350 people, the Saturday Star reported yesterday. Government has already declared disaster areas in some parts of Limpopo following damage from the rain.

Bridges in most areas are submerged, dams and rivers are over-flowing and many villages are cut off from the rest of world, particularly in the low-lying Nkomazi region near Komatipoort.

Water treatment plants in the Nkomazi area were damaged, forcing the local municipality to use water tankers to supply communities with water.

Nkosi fears that if it rains hard again, his house will be destroyed. “I will dig a furrow here to re-direct the water away. Other than that I have no plan to save my house,” he said.

But his plan is hardly practical as the house is perched right in the path of the rainwater as it flows down the hill. Nkosi is not alone – most residents in this village of subsistence farmers live in mud houses.

The damage is clear and the walls of most houses are protected by black plastic or corrugated iron sheets and supported with logs or iron rods.

Villagers are trying to rebuild their structures and get on with their lives. Some residents say they have registered for RDP houses, while others say government has not registered them.

Getrude Thabethe (58), who had hired somebody to re-build her house, said: “I applied for an RDP house many years ago but I’ve stopped following the matter up. The radio weather forecast says the rain will come back and I can’t imagine what we’re going to do.”

Ward councillor Sindisiwe Gama said formalisation of the area so that RDP houses can be built is taking a long time because Shiyalongubo village used to fall under Nkomazi (Malelane) municipality but was recently re-demarcated into the Umjindi (Barberton) municipality.

“But I think most councillors have never been here, so when I insist that this area should be prioritised, they don’t take me seriously,” Gama said.

The Mpumalanga Joint Operation Committee said infrastructure in the whole Ehlanzeni district was affected and they were on standby to relocate 14 families living near river banks in Nkomazi if the rain started again.

In the meantime, affected families were given food parcels, blankets and tents to rebuild their lives. The Department of Health is monitoring the situation for any outbreak of waterborne diseases, said Kunene.

“The Joint Operation Committee will draw up an action plan to address the damage caused by the floods,” he said.

In Thaba Chweu municipality (Lydenburg), Mbombela and Bushbuckridge, 55 houses were damaged.

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