The water affairs department issued a flood warning on Wednesday after two days of heavy rainfall soaked parts of the country.
“Communities residing near the four major dams [Vaal, Bloemhof, Gariep and Vanderkloof dams] should exercise extreme caution,” spokesperson Linda Page said.
Over the past 24 hours, the Vaal Dam had reached a capacity of 105,5% and the outflow had increased substantially.
The Bloemhof Dam was 101% full and was expected to increase outflow to 1 300 cubic metres per second by 4pm, and 1 700 cubic metres per second by 5pm on Wednesday.
The Gariep Dam was at 109,8% full and the outflow was 1 600 cubic metres per second, while the Vanderkloof Dam reached a capacity of 105,8%.
Its outflow of 950 cubic metres per second was expected to increase to 2 000 cubic metres per second.
“As more rain has been forecast by the South African Weather Service it is expected that additional measures will be taken to release more water from the dams,” Page said.
Across the country, the heavy downpour has cut off roads, uprooted trees, collapsed bridges, marooned farms, wrecked crops, damaged cars, flooded homes and swept away shacks.
Affected areas included Moretele, Hammanskraal, Ladysmith, Newcastle, Mamelodi, Nkandla, Nquthu, Winburg, Senekal, and parts of Mpumalanga.
Simphiwe Kunene, cooperate governance spokesperson in Mpumalanga, said a warning of possible flooding had been issued in the province.
“We warn all residents of the province to be on full alert as heavy rains and windstorms have been predicted for the province for the next few days,” he said in a statement. “A special warning is being made to those living in low-lying areas and next to flood lines … continued rains can lead to the increase of dam and river levels thus making small streams very dangerous.”
He urged people to move to higher ground.
All Mpumalanga municipalities were on standby to respond to flooded areas, said Kunene.
Tshwane community safety spokesperson William Baloyi said several informal settlements in Mamelodi had been destroyed and scores of families left homeless.
“Their basic necessities, clothing and other belongings were swept away.
“The flooding is serious and they need to be evacuated … so right now, we are trying to move them into churches and available halls.”
Mayor Raymond Motsepe from the Bojanala Platinum District Municipality said an emergency relief delegation would be sent to the Moretele and Hammanskraal area where hundreds of families had been displaced.
Moretele and Hammanskraal are situated near the North West province border.
In Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, about 50 houses were flooded on Tuesday.
The central business district was affected and businesses were forced to close.
Three people were killed due to the flooding in Ladysmith, provincial minister Nomusa Dube said on Wednesday.
“Three people have died since the flooding started. Lots of houses were damaged, especially in Driefontein. In one situation the house fell on one woman and she was lucky to survive,” Dube said.
It started raining in the Ladysmith area on December 31 when one person died in Roosboom.
Two other people died while trying to cross a stream in Ladysmith on Tuesday.
“At this stage it is still early to declare Ladysmith a disaster area. The disaster management team is still dealing with the situation,” she said.
Meanwhile, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported that low-lying bridges along the N5 highway in the Free State were flooded.
Transport department spokesperson Zolile Walaza urged motorists to be cautious and wait for the rain to subside instead of trying to cross bridges. — Sapa