Man drowns, roofs torn off as third storm sweeps through the Cape

11 July 2024 - 10:25 By Kim Swartz
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Severe weather alerts for Thursday.
Severe weather alerts for Thursday.
Image: SA Weather Service

Fierce winds tore off roofs and uprooted trees as the third cold front in five days howled across the Western Cape, claiming the life of a pedestrian who fell into a canal on Thursday.

The unidentified man slipped and fell into the canal at about 7am in the suburb of Blackheath.

“At the time of the incident the roads were flooded. SAPS and fire and rescue divers were deployed to the area ... where the person was last seen by an eyewitness. The body of an unknown man was retrieved from the water. The victim was declared deceased on the scene by medial personnel,” said police spokesperson W/O Joseph Swartbooi.

Mfuleni police registered an inquest for further investigation.

“It has been a busy night for the disaster operations centre with dozens of calls about weather-related impacts,” said Cape Town disaster risk management centre spokesperson Sonica Lategan.

“Apart from flooded and obstructed roads, there have also been reports of flooding in a number of residential areas and electricity outages.”

Scores of schools were closed due to safety concerns related to a level 8 warning of disruptive rain throughout the day. At least 15,000 people have been affected and are being assisted by authorities and NGOs.

Roofs were blown off houses and overhead electrical cables damaged in Wynberg.

“Crews from Constantia responded to the incident, and found four houses affected on the corner of Sussex and Bute roads. The occupants of the properties were relocated to alternative accommodation,” said Lategan.

The city's public emergency communication centre logged 339 incidents between 6pm on Wednesday and 6am on Thursday. More than 40% of the calls were weather-related.

“During the period, 54 calls were received about flooding of homes and severe weather conditions and 85 calls relating to conditions on the roads, including motor vehicle accidents and trees obstructing roads,” reported the centre.

Mayoral committee member Carl Pophaim said the city has distributed 6,500 flood assistance kits as relocations have been done and milling materials were delivered to soak up the water where possible.

“We expect the intensity of the storm to deepen and we expect to issue a further large number of flood kits. Where it is feasible, such as where the water is not too deep or damming up or, depending on local conditions, relief is being provided,” said Pophaim.

The severe weather had affected 37 areas in the metro, including Khayelitsha, Lwandle in Strand, Nomzamo, Gugulethu, Masiphumelele, Macassar, Sir Lowry’s Pass, Mfuleni, Tafelsig, Vygieskraal and Ocean View.

Lategan said NGOs were involved in humanitarian relief efforts, including Gift of the Givers, Islamic Relief, Ashraful Foundation, Living Hope, Mustadafin Foundation and Al Imdaad.

“Since the beginning of the week, they have distributed 44,642 meals, nearly 10,000 blankets, as well as beanies, mattresses and hygiene packs to affected communities,” she said.

Schools in the Overberg and Cape Winelands districts will remain closed on Friday. “The decision is based on the interests of learner and educator safety ... particularly with regard to travelling to and from schools. Extensive rainfall has caused widespread damage to roads and flooding, affecting school transport routes. A number of schools have also reported flood damage to their premises,” said education MEC David Maynier. 

Schools in other parts of the province were expected to reopen on Friday.

At least 217 schools across the province have now reported some form of damage to school infrastructure or disruption.

Teams have attended to hundreds of electricity service requests related to storm damage.

“As the severe weather conditions continue to hit Cape Town, we are likely to see more weather-related damage to electricity infrastructure in the city. Our teams have already attended to more than 100 electricity-related faults in the past 24 hours,” energy MMC Xanthea Limberg said on Wednesday.

South African National Parks (SANParks) has closed sections of Table Mountain National Park.

“Excessive mudslides, overflowing rivers and damage to access roads due to heavy rain have contributed to the closure of sections in Table Mountain National Park,” said SANParks.

Temporarily closed areas are the Cape Point overnight hiking trail and the roads to the Overseer's Cottage, Olifantsbos Cottage and Smitswinkel and Slangkop tented camps. All access roads leading to Tankwa Karoo National Park were closed due to snow.

Emergency services were on high alert in George along the Garden Route where winds of up to 60km/h were expected on Thursday. Emergency personnel were attending to fallen trees obstructing roads and power outages in the city.



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