/ 3 June 2024

Six people dead and hundreds evacuated in Eastern Cape floods

Eastern Cape Floods
Six people have died and one remains unaccounted for after severe flash floods hit the Eastern Cape over the weekend.

Six people have died and one remains unaccounted for after severe flash floods hit the Eastern Cape over the weekend. 

“Unfortunately, a baby girl and a man have died in overnight floods over the weekend in the Eastern Cape and we are doing everything to continue rescue operations,” the spokesperson for the province’s Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, Sithembiso Soyaya, told the Mail & Guardian

About 70 people have been rescued in 55 operations since Sunday, according to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI). 

Soyaya confirmed that 500 people had been evacuated from low-lying areas and informal settlements in Kariega, Blue Horizon Bay and Seaview, the most affected areas. 

“We have begun evacuations and we are placing people across areas in the metro [in places] like town halls and schools, however, some families are refusing to relocate because they are concerned over their belongings,” he said.

Over the weekend, the South African Weather Service issued a yellow level 6 warning with predictions of strong winds, snowfalls and flooding in parts of the Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape. 

The weather service also warned of the possibility of severe thunderstorms across Gauteng on Monday.

Non-profit disaster aid organisation Gift of the Givers said the high water levels had hindered its evacuation efforts in Kariega. 

“Our major discussion was also the blocked drains which means they have to activate a team immediately because, in East London, that is what makes the disaster worse. There are also concerns that river banks are on the verge of overflowing,” Gift of the Givers head of project management in the Eastern Cape Corene Conradie told the M&G

The aid group was using water pumps to help in evacuation efforts. 

The South African National Defence Force deployed a helicopter to assist rescue missions in inaccessible areas. Gift of the Givers, Rescue South Africa and the NSRI have been on the ground to help. 

In one incident, the NSRI safely recovered a man from an island in the Brak River after his vehicle, with six occupants in it, was trapped in the floodwaters after being swept under a bridge. 

The family, believed to have been trapped in the car until midnight, forced the back window of the vehicle open and attempted to climb onto the roof of the car. 

The province is prone to flooding which has claimed many lives and caused damage to infrastructure. 

In 2023, severe flooding killed three people and washed away bridges in Ingquza Hill, King Sabata Dalindyebo and Port Saint Johns.