Sunday, 28 October 2012

Several disaster areas after floods in Eastern Cape

Eastern Cape - Several Eastern Cape municipalities have declared themselves disaster areas following last week’s heavy rain, which resulted in an estimated R1 billion in damage, mostly to roads and infrastructure.

Some of the areas hardest hit said this week they did not have the funds in municipal budgets to deal with the damage from the floods, which claimed at least 12 lives.

Some areas received more than 400mm of rain over just a few days, resulting in roads and bridges washing away, houses and buildings being damaged, and many people being displaced.

Eastern Cape education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said seven schools, mostly primary schools, had reported being damaged last weekend. Teaching had however continued this week, since the damage had been mostly partial.

The provincial government has started proceedings to declare the province a disaster area, while some municipalities have already made disaster declarations on a local level.

Shane Brown, acting head of safety and security for Nelson Mandela Bay, which includes Port Elizabeth, said damage estimates of between R300 million and R600m had been received.

Most of the damage was on an infrastructural level, including to roads, bridges and stormwater systems.

He said the mayoral committee had recommended that the area be declared a disaster area, but added that this was also being done on a provincial level.

Assistance had been rendered to more than 4 000 people between the start of the rains last week and yesterday morning. Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Zanoxolo Wayile said earlier this week that “the impact [of the floods] on the municipal budget will be devastating”.

Ted Pillay, municipal manager of the Cacadu district municipality, said five of the nine local municipalities which fall under its control had been severely affected.

The Ndlambe municipality, which includes Port Alfred, Kenton-on-Sea and Bathurst, had been hardest hit, with major damage to roads and municipal and provincial infrastructure. Severe damage to homes in the poorer areas as well as the more affluent areas had been recorded, and those whose homes were flooded, or in some cases “flattened”, were being housed in community halls.

The Makana municipality, which includes Grahamstown, was next hardest hit, with the majority of damage done to the road network.

Pillay said some homes had experienced some flooding, but that no one was forced from their homes as a result.

In Kouga, which includes Jeffreys Bay and St Francis Bay, the biggest damage was also done to roads. A bridge in St Francis Bay was washed away, leaving residents cut off. “

The ATMs are starting to run out of money there, and the petrol stations are running out of fuel,” he said.

In the Sunday’s River and Koukamma municipalities, access roads had been “terribly affected”, Pillay added. This presented a “big problem” because these were major agricultural areas.

Huge damage to the N2 near Grahamstown would take months to fix, he said, adding that it was possible the road would need to be realigned, since it would be difficult to fill the damaged portions.

The R72 in the Ndlambe area was damaged in three different places, and repair work was currently under way.

Only light vehicles could use the road, meaning trucks had to take long detours.

In addition, Pillay said, the road closures and damages meant residents were spending more on fuel because some of the detours were “hundreds of kilometres long”, forcing taxi fares up too.

Ndlambe, Kouga and Sunday’s River had all declared themselves disaster areas, while the Cacadu district municipality had declared disasters in all five municipalities.

Pillay estimated the combined damage for his municipality and the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality could equal or exceed R1bn.

Earlier this week, Eastern Cape MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs Mlibo Qoboshiyane said the damage was likely to carry a price tag of more than R1bn, with damage in Nelson Mandela Bay estimated at R600m. Early estimates for Ndlambe and Kouga municipalities released this week were R500m and R97m respectively.

“Local government doesn’t have a budget of this magnitude, and you declare a state of disaster because you need national help,” Pillay said.

Weekend Argus/IOL

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