Oudtshoorn on high alert as heavy rain causes river swells

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The Cango Caves are located in Precambrian limestones at the foothills of the Swartberg range near Oudtshoorn.
The Cango Caves are located in Precambrian limestones at the foothills of the Swartberg range near Oudtshoorn.
Ashley Vlotman, Gallo Images

  • Oudtshoorn residents have been cautioned to avoid low-lying bridges following days of heavy rain.
  • Rivers, such as the one flowing from the Cango Caves, are flowing strongly.
  • The gushing river has left employees at the Cango Wildlife Ranch on high alert.

Oudtshoorn residents have been warned to avoid low-lying bridges after heavy rain.

On Monday night, the Oudtshoorn municipality warned of increased water levels of a river that flows from the Cango Caves. The municipality described the increased flow as "extremely dangerous".

"We urge residents not to cross any of the low water bridges in town as there might be debris in the water," it said in a statement.

A measurement taken in the catchment area on Monday morning showed 38mm rainfall, but more rain fell in the catchment area after the measurement was taken. The actual rainfall was estimated to measure between 40mm and 50mm. 

Cango Wildlife Ranch tourism manager Tammy Moult said the facility was mopping up after heavy rains a week ago.

She said they were positioned alongside the river, so rising water levels remained a concern.

She added:

The water is coming down quite hard but we, fortunately, have about a three-hour warning from the Cango Caves before the water reaches us. They animals are all safe and in a dry space.

Most of the animal camps include a dry space for their occupants and are on higher ground, however, evacuation plans are in place for animals closer to the river.

"We have crates at the ready should we need to evacuate any animals. Fortunately, we do a lot of husbandry training here, so most of the animals will enter a crate voluntarily and that makes our work slightly easier," she added.

Rains in the region started on Sunday, with Oudtshoorn experiencing heavy rainfall and damaging winds, according to Western Cape disaster management chief Colin Deiner.

One person was rescued after being swept away while crossing a flooded low-water bridge, he said.

READ | Weather warning for Western Cape after downpours cause flooding, road closures

The roofs of several houses were blown off, trees were uprooted, electricity lines were damaged and trees were blown over. Some parts of the region were left without electricity, Deiner said.

Other areas, such as George and the Wilderness, also experienced flooding and power outages.

The South African Weather Service released an orange warning for flooding in parts of the Western Cape on Monday.

Meanwhile, the heavy rains are likely to offer residents some relief from drought conditions in the area.

The Koos Raubenheimer dam that supplies potable water to Oudtshoorn is 100% full and overflowing, the municipality said.

Water restrictions will now be lifted in the town.

"This is the best news for the Greater Oudtshoorn since the town was recently declared a state of disaster for drought when the dam level reached a low of 30%," said Mayor Chad Louw.

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