MORE than 2000 people were evacuated, roads closed and homes flooded as heavy downpours caused havoc in Nelson Mandela Bay yesterday – with up to 150mm recorded in some places since Tuesday. Uitenhage received 135mm and Port Alfred 165mm.
The unseasonal rain, which started on Tuesday and continued throughout the night on Wednesday and yesterday, caused mayhem throughout the city. But it also brought relief to the drought-stricken region.
Floods forced the closure of several roads in the city, including the Third Avenue dip in Newton Park, Port Elizabeth, and the Cuyler Bridge between Uitenhage and KwaNobuhle.
On the outskirts of Uitenhage yesterday, five schoolchildren and three teachers had to be airlifted to safety after the bridge across the Palmiet River collapsed.
Meanwhile, residents along the Swartkops River kept a close watch on the rising water level and tide changes last night.
Earlier in the day, owners were forced to remove their boats from the Redhouse Yacht Club after it was flooded.
Two accidents were reported – one on Settlers Way near the North End Prison and another on the M19 between Port Elizabeth and Addo in which the driver was taken to hospital after his car overturned.
Yesterday, the Port Elizabeth Weather Office had recorded 30.6mm of rain at the Port Elizabeth Airport by 8pm, 80.6mm at Chatty Fire Station, 47.2mm at Riverstone Bridge in Kabega Park and 35mm at the Kouga Dam.
The dam levels have risen nearly 7% this week. And with run-off still flowing from the catchment areas – 97.2mm was recorded at Patensie by last night and 45.6mm at Joubertina – this figure is likely to rise. Dam levels averaged 52% by 2pm yesterday, up from 45.03% on Monday.
Not so happy about the rain was Kwazakhele pensioner Thamsanga Mpengu, 62, whose shack was flooded. “It is like this every year. The rain came into the house last night and we slept in the water.”
Mpengu shares the shack with Mbulelo Mashologu, 48, and the two spent the day getting rid of the water with the help of their neighbour, Nonceba Tshaka, 61.
“I always help Thamsanga when the rains come. He’s too old to do it himself,” Tshaka said. “My house is also flooded and we’re getting sick. It’s really unfair. No one helps us.”
Tando Ngaka, 23, and his wife, Liyema, 20, braved the weather with their three-week-old baby, Hlumelo, , bundled between them so she would not get wet.
“My whole house has been flooded,” Ngaka said. “We slept in the water all night. I don’t know where we’re going to sleep tonight. Maybe we’ll sleep in the back of my van.”
In Motherwell, disaster management officials had to evacuate 300 residents to a makeshift relief centre at the ANC parliamentary constituency office.
In Colchester, Endlovini informal settlement community leader Godfrey Jacobs said about 50 families desperately needed help.
“We are still waiting for the disaster management officials to come and help us. The situation here is bad, our furniture is floating in water. We don’t know where we will sleep tonight because all the beds and clothes are wet.
“The worst part is that we have no toilets and most residents use a nearby field to relieve themselves. Now the faeces is coming to the shacks. We need help,” he said.
In Malabar, the shacks of more than 35 families were flooded, with residents desperately trying to prevent their belongings from getting even more damaged.
More than 100 Greenbushes residents, whose shacks and poorly built RDP houses were flooded, camped at the Greenbushes Community Hall where they also registered for food parcels.
Resident Annalise Feni-Thorne, whose shack is flooded, said her children Luzane, 10, and Sisipho, two, could not go to school because of the rain. Sisipho attends a playschool in the area.
Feni-Thorne claimed that when they approached newly-elected DA Ward 40 councillor Vicky Knoetze to call the city’s disaster management to help them drain the water from their shacks, she had told them they would come tomorrow because it was still raining.
“We can’t wait for Saturday, she must do something today. Also, we can’t sit the whole day in the hall because our shacks get burgled during the day,” Feni-Thorne said.
Another resident, Noluthando Mazantsi, said they needed proper RDP houses. Her daughter Megan, 14, a Grade 9 pupil at Korsten’s JG Louw High School, could not attend school yesterday because her uniform was wet.
“She is writing exams, but she can’t go to school in a wet uniform, that’s why she had to stay at home. We want the mayor to come here and see how we live. “Vicky doesn’t listen to us.”
Knoetze said: “I contacted the disaster management centre and they took some blankets to the people when it started raining. I contacted them again later and requested they visit the community hall and give out more blankets.
“There’s severe flooding in Ward 40, but the matter is being addressed. The disaster management officials said they would go back to the area and provide some kind of relief to the people.”
Further west, the Kouga Municipality issued a warning to farmers in the Patensie area that the Gamtoos River might come down in flood. By 3pm, police had closed the railway bridge and reported that some farms in the area had sustained water damage. At the same time, reports were received that the Groendal Dam was also overflowing due to heavy rain.
Port Elizabeth Weather Office spokesperson Garth Sampson said the rain was “gradually clearing” but the dams would continue to fill up. “If we are at 60% [at the Kouga Dam] now, then we are looking at going all the way to the bank, but we are a drought region so we must still use water sparingly.”
The municipality will determine at the end of the month whether it can lift some of the water restrictions.
Reporting by: Khanyi Ndabeni, Chivimbiso Gava, Pearl Boshomane Gareth Wilson, Lynn Williams and Luyolo Mtenkane