Blue skies beckon for flood-hit Western Cape

Skies showed signs of clearing over the Western Cape on Wednesday afternoon, offering a respite to communities hit by days of driving rain and flooding.

Bridges have been damaged or flooded and sections of road washed away along the West Coast, while thousands of people on the low-lying Cape Flats have sought refuge in community halls.

Provincial agriculture minister Cobus Dowry said on Wednesday afternoon that the rain had had a mixed impact on agriculture. “Although there are reports of damage to roads and dams in certain areas, we are thankful that the floods have not reached the point of a disaster for agriculture,” he said in a statement.

He was, however, concerned about the situation in the Citrusdal and Vredendal areas, where damage to roads and bridges made it difficult for farmers to get to their citrus orchards and to transport products to markets. This could affect the quality of the fruit harvested for export.

At the same time, the cold weather was good for fruit trees and the wheat crop.

Bridge reopens
Earlier, it was reported that a major bridge at Vredendal had been reopened after being closed overnight because of flood damage.

Matzikama municipality’s director of protection services, Jan Swart, said the bridge, over the swollen Olifants River, was reopened at 9am on Wednesday following inspection by provincial road engineers.

The closure of the bridge, which had reportedly showed cracks, effectively cut off road access to the outside world for a substantial section of the town.

Swart said traffic was now being allowed through on one lane only, five cars at a time, or one heavy vehicle at a time, in first gear.

Repairs were not possible while the river was running high.

He said the municipality had asked the province to make a helicopter available to ferry medicines and food to nearby Lutzville, which was also cut off by flooding.

Weather clearing
City of Cape Town disaster management spokesperson Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said the weather service forecast only a 30% likelihood of showers on Thursday morning, clearing through the day.

He said about 3 000 residents of flooded Cape Flats informal settlements were still being housed in community halls, but it was hoped they would be able to start moving back to their homes from Thursday morning.

City response teams were continuing mopping-up operations.

Solomons-Johannes said the city’s five NGO disaster-relief partners were “stretched to the limit” to provide hot meals and blankets to flooding victims. They were providing 22 000 meals twice a day, and had distributed 13 000 blankets in the past week.

It was announced on Wednesday that PetroSA, the national oil and gas corporation, was donating R1,5-million to help victims of the bad weather in the province. The money will used to buy blankets, food and other essentials.—Sapa