South Africa

Two people missing, farmworkers evacuated as storm keeps lashing Western Cape

Cape Town – Two people are missing and 30 farmworkers are being evacuated in Riviersonderend as a storm continues to take a heavy toll on the Western Cape, with people dying in Bonnievale.

The Overberg, specifically Bredasdorp, Struisbaai, Riviersonderend and the surrounding areas, continue to be hardest hit by the storm that made landfall on Tuesday evening, with many areas still flooded, James-Brent Styan, the spokesperson for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell said on Thursday.

The SA Weather Service predicts that the bad weather will continue until Saturday and while less rain is predicted for the City of Cape Town, a warning has been issued for heavy rain in Oudtshoorn. Heavy rain is also expected to continue over the Cape Winelands District, Hessequa and Ladismith municipalities until Saturday.

’’Malgas in the Southern Cape is cut off due to impassable roads. Contingency plans are in place for emergencies through Overberg Disaster Management. No attempts must be made to leave the area as roads have become dangerous,’’ said Styan.

’’Due to a lot of water in the catchment areas, it is predicted that the Breede River (and other rivers in the affected areas) will be experiencing higher than normal flood levels during the next 24 hours. People in low-lying areas close to rivers are urged to be on alert for severe flooding.’’

The Tradouw Pass between Barrydale and Swellendam is closed due to current weather conditions which has resulted in a rock fall.

Two people died in flood waters in Bonnievale on the R317 last night after being trapped in an overturned vehicle. Emergency services officials and police divers were dispatched to the scene to remove the two bodies.

Search and rescue efforts are continuing for the two missing persons, one in Stormsvlei and the other in Riviersonderend.

Multiple rescue efforts had to be conducted and are in process, said Styan.

’’The evacuation of farmworkers is from a farm in the Riviersonderend area. In addition, the Malgas community has been cut off by the rising Breede River and is at risk of being flooded. The rising water levels is being monitored by the Department of Water and Sanitation,’’ said Styan.

Bredell says District Municipal Fire & Rescue, EMS, NSRI, SANAF and SAPS are all deployed and assisting communities across the affected regions.

“In addition, the South African Air Force has put an Oryx helicopter on standby to assist with search and rescue operations when conditions allow,’’ Bredell said.

On the humanitarian side of things, Checkers and USave have provided mobile soup units to Riversonderend and Struisbaai. A donation of blankets, dry goods and toiletries have also been donated.

SASSA has further tasked the NGO Gift of the Givers to also deliver blankets and food to Struisbaai. Various private donations are still being received.

Bredell urged people in the affected areas to be patient and cautious.

“Emergency services are working non-stop to assist people who have been affected by the storm. Large rivers are swelling and flooding their banks in places and this will continue to pose challenges in the next day or two.

’’Please contact the emergency services in the case of any emergency. In addition, when driving, please apply extreme caution and do not cross flood waters crossing roadways.”

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