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Damage assessments begin following deadly Western Cape storm

The Overberg region in the Southern Cape will start damage assessments while humanitarian relief efforts continue after a severe winter storm led to localised flooding, caused the deaths of four people, and left nearly 400 people in desperate need of assistance. 

The storm made landfall on Tuesday last week, with the heavy rainfall finally stopping over the weekend. 

Struisbaai, which was hit hard by the storm, recorded close to 174mm of rainfall over a four-day period. During the same period, 4 to 7 May, the Garden Route town of Ladismith recorded just less than 44mm. 

The Western Cape’s MEC for local government, environment and development planning, Anton Bredell, said the rainfall was “more than the area has seen in the past six years”. 

Provincial disaster management has confirmed the deaths of another two people who were reported missing in the Riviersonderend and Stormsvlei area. Last week, two people died in the Bonnievale area after their vehicle capsized and was trapped in floodwater.  

Heavy rainfalls and strong wind caused severe flooding in Struisbaai, Riviersonderend, Malgas and several rural areas across the Southern Cape. About 30 farmworkers in the Malgas settlement near the Breede River were evacuated on Thursday.

The Mail & Guardian reported last week that 57 families had to move when their homes were flooded in Struisbaai. Some of the families were being housed by residents or at the two municipal caravan parks. 

However, the local disaster management regulations only provide a three-day assistance period for the people being housed at the municipal caravan parks. 

In accordance with the regulations, 27 families will have to leave the caravan parks on Monday 10 May. But Millison Saptou, Cape Agulhas disaster officer, gave her assurance that the situation would be assessed and support provided for families still in need.  

Several road closures are still in place due to riverbanks overflowing. On Monday morning, roads to Arniston and Struisbaai were still closed. According to Saptou, the roads might open later on Monday, as water levels were subsiding rapidly.

Mop-up operations are taking place and humanitarian relief efforts continue. 

“Cleaning up has begun across the region while formal damage assessments will begin this week. The Western Cape disaster management remains on high alert and people are urged to call the emergency services in event of an emergency,” Bredell said on Sunday. 

Saptou said that hundreds of families still desperately needed help.

The storm left 400 people in the Oukamp informal settlement in Struisbaai North “extremely vulnerable” as their homes were flooded and their possessions swept away by floodwater. 

Saptou acknowledged the assistance and support given last week by relief organisations, but added that it was not nearly enough to help those affected to get back on their feet. 

“They have nothing. Many people lost everything. It is not a liveable environment to go back to,” said Saptou. The South African Weather Service has not issued any new alerts for the Western Cape, and rainfall is only expected over the weekend again.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a junior daily news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She was previously a freelance journalist and a broadcaster at Maroela Media and Smile90.4FM.

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