DISASTERS like that Ndlambe and much of the Eastern Cape coast experienced last week, bring out the best and the worst in people.
The best was evident in the friends, neighbours and NSRI volunteers who helped evacuate people whose homes were flooded in the middle of the night, and who spent hours helping flood victims salvage their precious possessions.
It was evident in the community effort to rebuild the collapsed Saltvlei Road in Port Alfred, with dozens of people packing sandbags, and business owners providing workers and earthmoving equipment.
The best in people was evident in the police and emergency services workers who put in long hours to coordinate relief efforts.
And it was evident in the churches, organisations and individuals who collected food, clothing and blankets to give to township residents whose homes and belongings were damaged and destroyed.
There are many more individuals who give their time and money in crisis situations like this.
Sadly, it is also in times like this that opportunists rear their heads and take advantage of people’s plight.
There have been reported break-ins and looting of abandoned homes in Port Alfred, and some informal settlement residents affected by flooding in Kenton have even declined emergency shelter as they fear vandals will strip their shacks while they are away.
In one of the most tragically absurd incidents, Medolino Caravan Park owner Derek Victor described how a man tried to steal his only pair of dry shoes.
Victor said he left his shoes at the edge of the water at his flooded park to wade barefoot to his office to fetch something. When he returned, he found a man putting his shoes into a bag.
He got his shoes back after confronting the would-be thief. Considering the loss Victor has suffered, it seems like insult added to injury.
Another example of people’s uglier natures is the gawkers who gather merely to observe the misfortunes of others, and perhaps take photos. Sometimes they get in the way of those trying to help.
Disasters can be a “wake-up call” as mayor Sipho Tandani said, and it is in these times that the best of intentions can be formed. But it is the follow-through that is important.
As well as seeking hundreds of millions of rands in disaster relief funding to repair roads, retaining walls and damaged water and sewerage infrastructure, Tandani said the municipality needed to come up with a master plan with long-term solutions.
An upgrade to long-neglected and hopelessly inadequate storm water drainage is paramount, he said.
– Jon Houzet