Continued rains cause havoc

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pretoria - Johannesburg Emergency Metro Services (JEMS) have been put on high alert in areas prone to flooding in the province as wet weather continues.

High- risk areas include those around the Klip River system in Soweto, areas between the West Rand's river system and the northern suburbs, including Dainfern, Diepsloot, Alexandra and Woodmead, among others.

"We are calling for people who experience problems to call 10177 from a land line and 112 from their cell phones. They must make sure they have a proper evacuation plan should their houses be flooded," JEMS spokesperson Percy Morokane told BuaNews.

He warned people to stay away from low water bridges because the water pressure would be much higher than usual and there was a possibility they could get washed away.

He further appealed to parents to keep an eye on their children. "Kids are kids - they may want to experiment with water," he said.

The continued rains have been causing havoc this week, with many living in informal settlements being rendered homeless.

About 300 families in the Palmridge informal settlement, east of Johannesburg, had to be relocated after their homes were flooded earlier this week. The body of a mother and her six-month-old child were recovered after their shack was washed away.

The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality has been helping those who were stranded by distributing food parcels and helping patch up homes.

Families from informal settlements in Wattville, Benoni and Eldorado, south of Johannesburg, also had to be moved from the area when their homes were flooded.

Communities living along the banks of the Vaal River in Vereeniging have also been affected, as the river burst its banks.

Earlier this week, the Department of Water Affairs issued a warning to the residents as the dam was 105 percent full. So far 14 of the 60 flood gates have had to be opened since the weekend.

Dams in the country have also been filled passed capacity due to the persistent downpours. The Bloemhof Dam in North West province is 112 percent full and the Grootdraai Dam in Mphumalanga is 110 percent full.

People living around these dams have been warned to be extremely cautious and move away from river banks and they must avoid crossing full rivers and overflowing bridges.

The department said it would continue monitoring rising water levels at dams across the country.

"At this stage, these are the only overflowing dams in the country, but we are expecting more rains which might warrant the release of more water," it said.