Floods: Gauteng emergency services on standby

Friday, March 23, 2018

Gauteng traffic and emergency services officials have their hands full this morning directing traffic, as many traffic lights are out of order due to the heavy rains.

The South African Weather Service has issued a warning that more than 50mm of rain is expected to fall across five provinces. The rain will lead to localised flooding in the eastern parts of the Free State‚ North West‚ Gauteng‚ Highveld areas of Mpumalanga and parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

The continuous heavy rains, which started in Gauteng on Thursday, have resulted in flash floods in parts of the province such as Soshanguve, Pretoria West, Hammanskraal and in Centurion, where a car drove into a sinkhole on the R55 leading to Valhalla. 

In Ekhuruleni, reports indicate that some families were forced to leave their homes in the Makause informal settlement after a sinkhole developed.

In Johannesburg, roads in Fourways, Randburg, Florida, Soweto and other areas have been flooded, including Diepsloot and Jackson informal settlements. There are also reports of fallen trees blocking roads.

No injuries have been reported thus far but low lining bridges have been closed to traffic.

Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) Chief David Tembe said units are out to help ease traffic congestion today, while emergency medical services (EMS) are on standby for all emergencies.

“We are doing our best to cover the problem areas affected by rain. All units are deployed in hotspots and plead with you the community to work with us.”

Tembe cautioned that roads are slippery and motorists must slow down to allow extra distance between vehicles.

“Be extra cautious when changing lanes, as visibility will be low. You need to make sure you take extra looks in your blind spot and rear view mirror,” advised Tembe.

The public has been urged to avoid crossing rivers and swollen streams.

Driving tips for floods

The Automobile Association (AA) said, if you meet a flood anywhere, some important rules need to be followed.

Firstly, if possible, turn around and drive away from the flooded area. If this isn’t possible, try to gauge the depth of the water ahead by watching other vehicles negotiate a specific stretch of water.

Do not attempt to go through this if it is deeper than 20 centimetres, as the water may damage mechanical and electronic components of your vehicle.

Some other tips to negotiate flooded roads include:

  • Obey authorities and emergency personnel who tell you to avoid driving on a specific road. If a road has been closed, obey the closure, and drive on an alternative route.
  • Do not try to cross a body of water, even if you think you can make it, as the water may be deeper than you think and the road may have eroded since you last used it.
  • If there is a risk you will be caught in a flood, pull off the road and look for higher ground.
  • If you do pull off, make sure you leave enough space for emergency vehicles to pass you.
  • If you have no alternative but to drive through a body of water, drive as slow as possible in first gear with both hands on the steering wheel. This will give your car the necessary traction to move forward. Driving fast may result in aquaplaning.
  • Ensure you are as visible as possible. Switch on your headlights.
  • If your car is being surrounded by water, unfasten your seatbelt (and those of any children with you), unlock your doors, and open your windows.  If water starts entering through the windows, get out of the vehicle and wade to the nearest point of safer higher ground. Remember, you are more important than your car.
  • If your car is suddenly submerged and your windows aren’t already open, try to break a window and swim to the nearest point of safety.
  • If you are caught in a flood, be patient and remain calm. The emergency services will get to you but there may be delays as they have to negotiate the same hazards.
  • Be especially cautious at night or when visibility is low, as it may be harder to see floods ahead.

If you do make it through the water, check your car for any damage. Have an expert examine your vehicle afterwards for any damage that may be longer lasting.

If your car has been partially or completely submerged, and you have stopped in a body of water, don’t try and start it unless you have had a technician look at it, as this may result in damage to the engine.

It is important to remain as calm as possible in these situations and assess the best way out. If this means leaving your car, do that rather than attempt to get your car through when it clearly won’t make it, as you may be endangering your life and those of any passengers with you. - SAnews.gov.za

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