WATCH | Residents evacuated as Bloemhof Dam, Vaal River swell beyond capacity

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  • Evacuations have begun in earnest as water levels rise in the Bloemhof Dam.
  • Some residents have raised concerns over the belongings, fearing theft and vandalism.
  • About 83 families living near the dam and Vaal River would be moved temporarily to guest houses in the area.

The North West government has begun evacuating people living along the Bloemhof Dam and Vaal River banks despite some evacuees fearing for the safety of their properties.

Around 83 households between Bloemhof Dam and the Vaal River had been urged to evacuate their homes.

National, provincial and local governments fear a catastrophe once water floods Bloemhof and neighbouring Christiana in the North West.

Lekwa Teemane municipal mayor Sebang Motlhabi said some residents at risk were reluctant to be moved to safety.

Motlhabi said residents were being moved to guesthouses and local churches.

"We are following a national and provincial directive because the Bloemhof Dam is full beyond its capacity. The Vaal River in Bloemhof is also full, leaving some yards covered in water," Motlhabi said.

The municipality was assisting residents in temporarily moving to safer places.

"We are only communicating with our people. Disaster management is the prerogative of the district municipality and the provincial government. We have put systems in place such as transport for our people.

"We are avoiding a situation where we are caught napping and faced with an emergency we could have prevented. We want this process to be smooth and quick. 

"We have activated a Joint-Operation Centre where all sectors involved in the evacuation to mitigate the situation," Motlhabi said.

WATCH | Gariep Dam overflowing for a second time this year

"We have activated SAPS from our side to ensure that they keep guard on houses that have been evacuated. The majority of all people we have evacuated fear that their belongings could be stolen or vandalised by criminals.

"We have asked our local SAPS to provide police visibility in the area that has been evacuated. We have also asked for a police van to be stationed near their (evacuees') homes," Motlhabi said.

The municipality had also activated a risk committee with national and government departments to assist in reviving the area once residents returned to their homes. 

The Department of Water and Sanitation said it monitored dams and rivers more keenly during the rainy season. 

"This is necessitated by the sheer volume of water due to the ongoing rains across the country, but mainly in the Vaal-Orange River System. To manage and protect infrastructure, the department decided to keep a total of four gates open for now, with the possibility of more releases happening in the near future. 

"Bloemhof Dam releases will be increased to 1 400 cubic meters per second with a great possibility of further increases later," department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said.

Ratau warned downstream communities of huge increases expected in the system over the next few days.

"Farmers and downstream communities are asked to remove equipment that may be damaged due to the outflow. It is always most important to protect and save lives and livelihoods," Ratau said.  

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