The flooding that affected the Cape Winelands (Overberg and Somerset West) over the long weekend of 22 to 25 September will be remembered for many years, especially by those who were directly impacted.
In response to the announcement by the South African Weather Services (SAWS) that they were upgrading the weather alert from level 4 to level 9, the Cape Winelands District Municipality’s Disaster Management Division activated all stakeholders and role-players, which included provincial departments operating in the district and all the local municipalities.
By the time the rain started in earnest, all services were on high alert, which allowed for quick interventions in order to protect lives and livelihoods. Due to the high volume of rain that fell in a very short period of time, several rivers overflowed and caused havoc for many travellers and residents.
There was no shortage of alarming videos and images circulated via electronic platforms. Late on Sunday afternoon, the N2 at Botrivier flooded and this main road network into Cape Town was closed. This forced commuters to travel via Ashton, Robertson and Worcester to reach the N1 in order to get back into (or out of) the city. To add to this catastrophe, the N1 at De Doorns had to be closed when the Kanetvlei River burst its banks, spilling over the national road and making it impassable for vehicles.
In the meanwhile, many gravel and rural roads situated next to rivers and dams were damaged and were subsequently closed. By this time, the disaster services were reporting that people were being evacuated from certain areas and being housed in community or church halls.
On Monday afternoon, the Nuy River burst its banks and, in an instant, there was no thoroughfare from the N2 to the N1. Hundreds of commuters were stuck. In terms of decisions made at provincial level, the CWDM released a notice via a number of platforms that advised those stranded in Langeberg, or who had not yet left their weekend accommodation, to turn back and travel to where they had spent the weekend or to seek alternative accommodation for the night.
The residents and businesses in Langeberg opened their homes and hearts to assist people in need. Guest houses offered rooms free of charge, schools opened their hostels and churches their halls. Wherever someone could be housed, they were.
The R60 was opened very late on Monday night, but cars had to be accompanied one by one across the damaged road and it was very slow going. As from Tuesday, reports started coming in of people who were stranded and/or completely cut off. The Disaster Management teams requested help in the form of helicopters from the provincial services in order to get supplies to these people. The town of McGregor was completely the bridge just before their town washed away and the other two entrances were closed due to damaged roads.
As the week progressed, the CWDM Roads team was able to start assessing the damage. While driving along these routes, they became aware of even more residents who had been trapped. In some cases, besides not having food, drinking water was becoming a problem too.
The CWDM Roads team alerted the Disaster Management team to the situation and more than 100 hampers of food and other necessities were delivered to victims the following day. Over the next few days, hundreds of food hampers were distributed by CWDM via local municipalities. The well known NGO, Gift of the Givers augmented the number of families that were assisted by joining forces with local and CWDM teams.
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