Flood victims in Port St Johns return to their damaged homes

2019-04-29 15:50
Green Farm informal settlement in Port St Johns was among the worst-affected areas in the Eastern Cape floods. (Sibahle Siqathule/GroundUp)

Green Farm informal settlement in Port St Johns was among the worst-affected areas in the Eastern Cape floods. (Sibahle Siqathule/GroundUp)

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The small community of Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape is picking up the pieces in the aftermath of destructive floods. More than 300 people have been displaced, according to the municipality, GroundUp reported.

Green Farm informal settlement was among the worst affected areas in the province. Many homes were submerged in water. Scores of families had to be evacuated and housed in the town hall. With the water subsided, they started to return home on Friday.

Green Farm resident Nokwazi Gcaba was left with only the clothes on her back.

ALSO READ: Minister visits flood-ravaged Eastern Cape to assess damage 'first-hand'

"I wasn't even home when the floods began. I came back home on Monday to see that my house had been destroyed. It was a sad sight, but things could have been worse – we could have been inside when the house collapsed."

Nohombile Sago, who has lived in Green Farm for the past 10 years, said this was not the first time that such a disaster had struck.

"Back in 2013, a similar disaster happened and the municipality promised us RDP houses in a safe place, but more than five years later we're in the same situation," she said.

Port St Johns Mayor Nomvuzo Mlombile-Cingo said: "We have an ongoing land claim issue with the people of Caguba. So that has caused a challenge in moving the Green Farm community. We need to first secure land and build houses, before we can remove them."

Ageing infrastructure

But the mayor placed some of the blame for the disaster on the residents.

"Some people have built on top of [storm water] pipes that were supposed to be changed. Another problem is that some of the pipes in the storm water drainage system are old pipes that cannot accommodate the way Port St Johns is today," said Mlombile-Cingo.

Various government agencies and departments – including Sassa, Cogta, the SANDF, and the health department – provided assistance to the flood victims.

"We're very lucky that no one died here in Port St Johns in these floods, but the damage throughout the whole province is shocking. KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape should be declared disaster zones," said resident Stephrina Mbuthuma.

But Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Fikile Xasa said assessment of the damage was still ongoing.

"It is the assessments and recommendations from the affected District Joint Operation Centres and municipal councils that will inform us whether or not a provincial state of disaster will be declared in terms of Section 41 of the Disaster Management Act," he said.

On Monday, Cogta spokesperson Mamnkeli Ngam said a meeting would be held on Tuesday at 10:00 to reflect on the situation, and whether or not to declare a disaster.

Read more on:    east london  |  service delivery  |  floods
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