Floods cause deaths, severe damage in Eastern Cape

The recent stormy weather in parts of the Eastern Cape claimed the lives of at least 11 people, resulted in over 2 000 others having to be moved from their flooded homes in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, and caused damage worth millions of rand.

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Vegetable producers in the Gamtoos Valley feared that they would be unable to harvest potatoes to supply the markets for at least 10 days after downpours stopped, as more rain was forecast. Almost 400mm of rain were recorded in six days at Port Alfred, where a number of streets and houses were flooded. Almost 300mm of rain fell in Port Elizabeth over the same period. In the city, the Brickmakerskloof bridge was washed away, while Humewood beach was littered with debris, including pieces of large pipes.

Pierre Joubert, general manager of the Gamtoos Irrigation Board, told Farmer’s Weekly that the flow of the Groot River had increased drastically to 596m³ per second and the combined flow of the Groot and Gamtoos Rivers was 742m³ per second.
“The Kouga Dam is 108,35% full, with 627m³ of water per second flowing over the wall. All low-water bridges in the area are closed for traffic and will remain so until it is safe to cross them again,” said Joubert.

“Several farmers in the Milton and Cambria areas and along the Klein River were cut off, and Hankey and Patensie were cut off from each other after severe flooding.” Food parcels had to be taken to people trapped in the Kruis River area after it became too dangerous to cross the strong-flowing Swartkops River, while about 70 campers stranded on the Despatch side of the river had to be brought to safety.

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Gamtoos Agricultural Association chairperson Spes du Preez said that while several farmers had been cut off from the outside world, no serious damage to crops had been reported, although many lands were centimetres under water and it was believed that some farmers would remain cut off for at least a week. In the Kouga district, heavy rain, strong winds and hail caused havoc and a large number of residents in informal settlements had to be evacuated.

The N2 between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown will reportedly be closed until next year for repairs, after a section of road was washed away.  According to Edwin Thema of the SA Weather Service, the stormy weather had been caused by a strong cut-off low pressure system that developed over the Northern Cape just before the start of the weekend of 20/21 October.