Rand Water has managed to stop the water flow that flooded parts of Meredale in Johannesburg after a pipe burst early on Tuesday.
Engineers are still not certain what caused the problem, but will repair it soon as they can, spokesperson Yolisa Tyantsi said.
There is currently no water flow as assessors examine the extent of the problem.
They are also checking the extent of damage to surrounding houses.
”For now, we are looking at people’s immediate needs,” she said. ”We might have to house people who cannot stay inside their houses.”
She said it is the first time in the history of Rand Water that such a thing has happened.
Johannesburg’s emergency services have rescued 18 people, including a six-month-old baby, from about 50 houses on the western side of Meredale, spokespeson Malcolm Midgley said.
A rescue team also flew over the nearby Kliptown to assess whether anyone was in danger, as a number of shacks had been built below the water line, but nobody appeared to need help.
The water was flowing down Antrim Road, the site of the water burst, past Johannesburg prison and over the Golden Highway into Orlando Dam.
Earlier, Matilda Brown was evacuated with her six-month-baby boy, Itumeleng, and other relatives.
”We were woken up this morning by a neighbour knocking on our door,” she said. ”We saw water everywhere. We have not slept all night. It was very scary.”
Dithebe Menoe, who was evacuated with his wife and daughter, said: ”We were asked to leave the house because they said it was unstable. It is safer and better to be outside.”
When a neighbour phoned him to alert him that his yard was flooding, he thought she was joking ”because she is a jokey person”, he said.
”I thought it couldn’t be a flood because it’s not raining … then I saw all this water in my yard.”
Menoe was concerned that he would not be able to report for work as he could not drive his car out of the garage, nor get into his house to retrieve his laptop.
”We will just sit around and wait. We hope that the water stops flowing now.”
The nearby Golden Highway is still closed and visitors and employees at Johannesburg prison have to go in and out by buses and trucks, which have higher undercarriages.
Cars cannot be used due to their lower undercarriages. Earlier, a police officer had to be helped after his vehicle became stuck in the water.
An official said that the prison is otherwise not affected and it sources its water from elsewhere, so cooking and ablutions will continue as normal.
Gauteng’s director and deputy director of planning and local government are among the people on the scene assessing the situation. — Sapa