Heavy flood toll

JON HOUZET, ROB KNOWLES, CANDICE BRADFIELD and SIPHELELE NDZAMELA

THE people of Ndlambe picked up the pieces and counted the cost this week after days of flooding destroyed homes, roads, cars and other possessions, and left some businesses unable to operate.

Ndlambe council has asked the national and provincial government to declare Ndlambe a disaster area, and the municipality is compiling a comprehensive damage report.

Although a figure of R500-million has been bandied about as the estimated cost of damage, on Wednesday municipal spokesman Cecil Mbolekwa said: “We haven’t done any costing of damage yet.”

FLOOD RELIEF: The Port Alfred Baptist Church was one of a number of local organisations who collected blankets and food for New Rest residents whose homes were destroyed in the floods. Among the recipients were the Qengqani family, (from left) Linamandla, baby Nonakhaya and Belinda Picture ROB KNOWLES

“We want the damage report to have figures by Friday,” he said.

About 550mm of rain has fallen in Port Alfred in October, most of which fell last Wednesday and Saturday.

Despite all the rain, parts of Port Alfred have been without water for four days after several water mains were damaged.

Kenton-on-Sea resident Trevor Langley expressed fears of a potential cholera threat at the Ekuphumleni informal settlement after sewage from pit latrines was washed into a wetland.

“The municipality has over the past six months allowed and in fact encouraged, dumping of building rubble in the wetland area, and this has now meant that a large lake has formed, instead of draining as it always has in the past,” said Langley.

“Children are playing in this lake which could be a real health risk.”

Mbolekwa said the municipality took the concern seriously and was consulting various government departments to address the potential for diseases arising from the flood.

Many residents left for work last Wednesday morning to find roads collapsed or blocked by mudslides. Some are still inaccessible.

Jetties were ripped from river banks by the raging Kowie River and smashed into each other, while worried boat owners tried to deflect the debris.

Both rich and poor have been left homeless. While people who had to evacuate their homes in Port Alfred have been taken in by friends and family, the municipality has opened community halls to township residents whose homes were flooded.

Eighty residents of New Rest informal settlement have been provided food, blankets, mattresses and emergency shelter at Ingubo Centre.

Low-lying areas of Port Alfred, including Hards Street and Medolino Caravan Park, were among the worst hit in the first wave of flooding last Wednesday night to Thursday morning, and about a dozen houses remained submerged up to the roof for days afterward.

Medolino owner Derek Victor abandoned his own flooded Hards Street home to help evacuate permanent residents of the caravan park at about 1am last Thursday.

He said NSRI volunteers who came to his assistance were “absolutely incredible”.

Surveying the damage wrought to chalets, ablution blocks, electrical wiring, pool pumps and internal roads in the park, Victor doubted he would be able to continue with the business.

A neighbouring guest house was also decimated when floodwater ripped through the property and toppled a boundary wall.

Friends and neighbours rallied to help other Hards Street residents remove belongings from their homes last Thursday, while cars were abandoned in flooded garages.

“At 1.30am I put my feet in six inches of water when I got up to go to the bathroom,” said Viv Dollery. “By 5am the water was up to my chest.”

The municipality cordoned off a number of streets and set up a rapid response team to coordinate disaster management efforts. The Port Alfred police had to abandon their station when it was flooded and they have set up temporarily in the fire department.

A second wave of unrelenting heavy rain on Saturday caused even more damage around Ndlambe.

A house in West Beach Drive in Port Alfred was completely destroyed when a nearby stream became a raging river, which also washed away a road and knocked down the boundary walls of a neighbouring home.

The suburb of South Downs was cut off on the weekend when their only access road collapsed, but members of the community joined municipal workers to temporarily rebuild the road with sandbags.

Townhouses at Southwell Manor were left teetering on the edge of a krantz after a huge section of the hill slid away, and residents had to be evacuated.

Traffic was halted on the R72 for several hours after the bridge over the Kasouga River was undermined and one lane collapsed. Only light traffic is now allowed to travel over the bridge on a stop-go basis.

In Bushman’s River a vlei burst its banks and a number of homes were flooded.

Leaky roofs were a widespread problem in Nemato and residents did their best to protect possessions and electrical meter boxes.

In Bathurst, parts of dirt roads washed away, making it difficult for residents to leave their homes. Even a breakdown service was unable to help one resident who was stuck in the mud as the state of the roads made it impossible to get there.

Walls collapsed and some businesses suffered thousands of rands worth of damage. Houses in the low lying areas were also flooded.

There has been an outpouring of compassion by churches, organisations, businesses and individuals who have donated food and blankets either directly to flood victims or through the municipality’s coordinated relief efforts.

On Tuesday members of the Port Alfred Baptist Church delivered 50 blankets to the Ingubo Centre for those who had been evacuated over the last few days.

Volunteers from the congregation also travelled to the Port Alfred police station to assist in cleanup operations there.

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