Two drownings under investigation as flash floods hit Pretoria

14 October 2018 - 15:03
By Timeslive
Roads are flooding in Pretoria‚ Johannesburg and southern Gauteng.
Image: Twitter/@tWeatherSA Roads are flooding in Pretoria‚ Johannesburg and southern Gauteng.

The City of Tshwane's emergency services are investigating an alert that two people may have drowned in the Apies River during a weekend of flash floods and electricity outages across the city‚ following heavy rains.

On Sunday afternoon‚ the Tshwane Emergency Services Department (EMS) said it had attended to various flooding incidents since Saturday afternoon when a thunderstorm with strong winds and hail approached Tshwane from the south.

The initial storm started in the East Rand and swept through Tshwane. The northern and western areas were the most affected from around 1pm continuing throughout the night. Storm water drains were blocked and could not handle the massive amount of water‚ hail and debris entering certain areas.

The most severe flash floods were observed in Hammanskraal‚ Temba‚ Pretoria West and Pretoria North.

The Apies River was in full flood for some time‚ the EMS said. Traffic was directed away from the low-water bridges and subways‚ especially the subway in Rachel de Beer Street‚ in Pretoria North.

"This morning‚ a community member reported that he saw two bodies in the Apies River close to the low-water bridge in Capital Park‚" EMS said.

"Emergency Services' Search and Rescue Unit and the South African Police Service (Saps) diving unit started searching on the riverbanks for any person or bodies. The river is still flooded and it is too dangerous for search and rescue teams to enter the water."

The City of Tshwane said low-water bridges were also affected in the Centurion area as the Hennops River was also in full flood for a considerable period of time.

The South African Weather Service earlier issued a warning of continuing heavy rains with the possibility of hail in Gauteng and especially Tshwane throughout the day‚ but said it might subside later on Sunday afternoon.

Tshwane's EMS said it remains on high alert and is monitoring the situation in all areas known for floods during heavy downfalls. "Our disaster management is assessing [Saturday's] damage and will continue to monitor the weather situation to assist distressed communities."

Some structures in the city were affected by the weekend's heavy rains.

‏The city has also been affected by power outages. In a notice to residents the municipality asked for patience‚ as efforts to restore electricity were being slowed by the ongoing rains and thunderstorms.

"Tshwane is experiencing power outages across its seven regions due to the incessant rain. We have recalled off-duty personnel to augment the teams on duty with a view to expediting power restoration to all affected areas. We plead for understanding and patience while we work flat-out to restore power. Persistent rainfall will affect the turnaround time of power restoration. We apologise to our consumers for the inconvenience caused‚" the city said.

Residents are advised to take these precautions:

- If possible‚ stay indoors and off the roads. Avoid crossing rivers and swollen streams where water is above your ankles. If trapped in a vehicle during a flood‚ abandon the vehicle and get to higher ground.

- Take special care of children; keep them away from flooded streams and rivers during storm conditions.

- In buildings‚ move valuables to a safe place above the expected flood level. Switch off electricity at the supply point to the building.

- Make sure that water can flow freely through your yard‚ and if the water level rises outside your house‚ open the doors so water can drain and not cause structural damage. If at all possible‚ channel water in the direction of the nearest road or drainage system.

- In rural areas‚ protect or relocate animals to a safe place on higher ground. Abandon your home immediately if evacuation is recommended‚ before access is cut off by flood water.

- Never drive on a road that is totally covered by water and no road surface can be seen. You do not know how deep the water is or if the road has been washed away. If the vehicle stalls‚ leave it immediately and seek higher ground.

- All low-lying bridges must be avoided during a flood.

- Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognise flood dangers.