Sunday, August 18, 2013

Floods leave thousands homeless

Tens of thousands of Peninsula residents have been forced to abandon their homes, with forecasts of a respite today and tomorrow offering little solace after the havoc wreaked in the past few days.

More than 36 000 people have been left homeless as nearly 10 000 homes were flooded and countless informal houses and businesses damaged.

Residents swarmed around mayor Patricia de Lille yesterday in Philippi, when she waded through water mixed with sewage and rubbish, inspecting some of the worst-hit parts of the city.

At Kosovo, she and Disaster Risk Management officials and members of her mayoral committee who were accompanying her, struggled through knee-deep water during the inspection of affected homes yesterday.

Kosovo is built on a flood plain and is at high risk of flooding during bad weather. And while residents have been lucky for the past three winters, they were caught off-guard by very heavy downpours on Friday night.

Several homes were under water and residents could be seen packing up their belongings as they moved to stay with family and friends.

Following the example of residents, De Lille resorted to using stones and plastic sheets as makeshift stepping stones to traverse the mud and waterlogged paths.

Faeces, rubbish and even dead rats were floating in the larger puddles, which in many cases were turning into streams.

Shacks erected in the heart of Kosovo township were worst affected and while De Lille tried her best to reach them, it proved impossible.

“Sadly, because of its location on a water retention area, this outcome was almost predictable.

“It’s heartbreaking to see people’s homes filled with water and their possessions floating all over, with garbage,” she said, adding that they were relocating those affected to one of 13 temporary relocation areas.

The city had tried to move the people out of Kosovo for the past two years, but had met with resistance from the community.

“Some stay for close proximity to work and family, but some political activists convinced the people to resist our relocation attempts and stay, despite the danger. It is reckless and irresponsible to manipulate people’s lives for political gain,” De Lille said.

Throughout her inspection De Lille was mobbed by people who wanted to tell her of their plight.

Kosovo resident Nomavo Ndupe said she was pleased to see De Lille, because “the city must see what we go through”.

“It’s not just the water, but the sewage that flows into our homes. The children and old people get sick all the time,” she said.

Residents were given loaves of bread before De Lille and her team moved on to Macassar, where residents of Kramat had stacked sandbags in front of their homes after a nearby river began overflowing.

About 50 residents abandoned their flooded homes there on Thursday. They are being sheltered in the Macassar Community Hall.

Veronica du Plessis said it was the second time her home had flooded in three years.

“Last time we had no place to go and no one to help us, but this time we get meals and a place to keep our children safe,” she said.

While the women looked after the children in the hall, the men took it in turns to keep watch over their flooded homes to keep looters away.

On the other side of town, at the Klipfontein Mission Station along Lansdowne Road, residents protested and burnt tyres on Friday night over lack of proper stormwater drainage in the area.

Residents Jessica and Peter Andries said their home was knee-deep in water.

Jessica Andries said:

“I have a five-year-old and a baby grandchild who had been living under these conditions for over a week. Nobody has been here to help drain this water.”

Other residents complained about the threat of disease, sickness and sores.

Henry Adriaanse, 57, said they had been living “worse than animals” for the past week.

A fuming Patricia van Rensberg said they had given the city a memorandum demanding proper drainage.

“The entire road next to our homes is flooded, and when the cars come past all that water splashes and runs down into our homes. No person should be allowed to live like this,” she said. 

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