Rochelle de Kock, Janine Oelofse, Bianca Nkomo and Hendrick Mphande
HEAVY rain, gale-force winds and snow wreaked havoc in the Eastern and Southern Cape at the weekend. In Nelson Mandela Bay, thousands of people were evacuated from their flooded homes, while emergency workers were also kept busy rescuing stranded motorists, attending to accidents and removing uprooted trees from main roads.
The treacherous weather conditions played a part in at least 10 road deaths in the province. Two people also died from exposure.
In Port Elizabeth, a woman drowned in Kleinskool, but her body had not been recovered by late last night. A 43-year-old man from Ericadene informal settlement, near Greenbushes, also drowned.
Major roads were closed due to snowfalls and at least 30 motorists and passengers were trapped. Areas affected by the closures included Barkly East, Dordrecht, Queenstown, Elliot, Lady Grey and Molteno.
Dams overflowed by late yesterday afternoon, forcing officials to open the sluice gates.
The SA Weather Service recorded 104.6mm of rain at the Port Elizabeth Airport by 8am yesterday.
Several areas in the Bay and its surrounds were plunged into darkness following power outages, including Van Stadens, Gamtoos, Tembani, Butterfield, Greenbushes, Theescombe, Seaview rural areas, Blue Horizon Bay, Mill Park, Forest Hill, Summerstrand and Westering.
Officials were working to restore supply, municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said.
He said the number of people evacuated from their flooded homes had increased from 740 residents on Saturday night to about 2000 by yesterday morning.
They were moved to the Nazareth Church in Salt Lake, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Missionvale campus, the Motherwell NU30 community hall and the Kuyga community hall.
The areas hardest hit by flooding were KwaNoxolo, Walmer, Kleinskool, Salt Lake, Missionvale, Nooitgedacht in Booysen Park, Motherwell, Kuyga and Wells Estate.
Food, clothes, mattresses and blankets were distributed by disaster management officials and major supermarkets.
At the campus, Missionvale mother of four Linda Malan said she was grateful that she had a roof over her head. “I arrived here on Saturday. My household items are all under water but now I feel safe here,” she said.
In Walmer, several motorists were trapped in their vehicles and had to be towed out of deep pools of water in the road.
The Baakens River burst its banks on Saturday and by late yesterday afternoon, emergency officials were keeping a watch on the Swartkops River which was rising rapidly.
On Saturday, the Riverstone Road bridge in Sherwood was closed.
East Cape Coastal Water Rescue worker John Fletcher said they had tried to recover three vehicles that washed away in the Baakens River, but had managed to recover only one. He did not know where the vehicles were standing when they were washed away.
“[Yesterday] we rescued two women in Forest Hill, near the cemetery, who were stuck in their car in water that was waist deep,” Fletcher said.
“Over the weekend, trees fell over in Cotswold, 1st and 10th Avenue, Walmer, and Kragga Kamma. There was an accident as a result of the tree that fell in Kragga Kamma.”
Popular Seaview restaurant Lavender Barn, which flooded in 2006, was once again under water.
Restaurant manager Mauro Nettl was serving breakfast at about 8.30am on Friday when he heard the water gushing. He started to evacuate the diners immediately and within two hours, the water was chest deep.
Nettl said they managed to save about 70% of items in the restaurant but could do nothing about the pizza ovens and fridges. The restaurant was not insured as it was built on a floodline.
“I had my entire life put into that place. I’m just looking to the future now. It’s done and it’s time to start another project,” he said.
The Animal Anti-Cruelty League also had its members patrolling the northern areas and used bolt-cutters to free six dogs left out in the cold. However, the league’s Linda-Louise Swain said they were unable to save two dogs – one drowned and the other froze to death.
Bay mayor Zanoxolo Wayile commended the emergency workers who had worked around the clock in their relief efforts.
“I went around the city to take stock of what’s happened and I also went to the Joint Operations Centre to see the magnitude of the challenges in the city,” he said.
“I want to thank disaster management, officials, the police, churches and various businesses that have come forward to assist. It has united our city.”
Baron said two residents took advantage of the floods to joyride on two rubber ducks at the Third Avenue dip in Newton Park.
Seven other men were given warnings by police after they were found canoeing in the Target Kloof area.
In the Kouga area, the Sand River bridge to St Francis Bay was closed due to the high water levels. One lane had been opened for light vehicles by yesterday afternoon.
Kouga municipal spokeswoman Laura-Leigh Randall said the Oyster Bay road to Humansdorp was closed and the Oyster Bay road to St Francis Bay could be accessed by 4×4 vehicles only.
She said many houses in the area had been flooded and that residents were receiving assistance.
The Port Elizabeth supply dams were overflowing yesterday. The latest levels are: Kouga Dam 107%, Loerie Dam 104%, Churchill Dam 106.5% and Mpofu Dam 105.6%.
Provincial police disaster management spokesman Captain John Fabian said while some vehicles were trapped for up to six hours due to road closures, no fatalities were reported.
Temperatures are expected to remain low tomorrow, with a maximum of 13.5°C expected in Port Elizabeth.
SA Weather Service forecaster Quinton Jacobs said the weather today would be “cloudy and cold to very cold on the high ground”.
He warned that isolated showers along the coast were still expected.
Port Elizabeth education director Dr Nyathi Ntsiko dismissed a notice from “mischievous” people being spread on BlackBerry Messenger saying that schools would only reopen on Thursday because areas were waterlogged.
“We urge everyone to report back to school today and from there we can assess the situation,” he said.
Additional reporting by Sapa, Daily Dispatch