How to stay safe during heavy rains

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pretoria – While the recent rains have brought much relief and substantially increased dam levels, flooding has caused havoc in parts of the country.

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has issued a comprehensive list of safety tips for the public, should they find themselves facing flooding.

“Sadly, we have received unconfirmed reports of fatalities within the Northern Cape and North West provinces as a result of flooding.

“We convey our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those who have thus far lost their lives due to the current rains. You are in our prayers,” said Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen.

Some bridges and roads are flooded, and this has negatively affected traffic flows and the normal day-to-day life of communities in some parts of the country.

“Members of the public must take note that it does take a while for water to move down the rivers so flooding may occur even in areas where there is no rain, hence community members must be cautious at all times,” the department said.

The South African Weather Service says more rain is expected in many parts of the country. Communities under threat or that are exposed to flooding risks are urged to move to higher ground when flash flood warnings are issued.

“At this stage, our teams across the country are on alert. They are able to cope with the situation and they will do everything possible to assist communities. However, we urge everyone to be extremely vigilant and cautious so that we can save lives,” Cogta said.

The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) is in contact with provincial and local disaster management centres on the ground to monitor the situation and give support.  

Safety tips

  • People living in low-lying areas must take special care during storms, as sudden floods might affect them. They should monitor the rising water levels and evacuate the areas to a safer place or higher spot when the water level rises.
  • Do not cross through flooded roads or bridges – use other routes.
  • Avoid crossing low-lying bridges, streams and rivers.
  • Never try to walk, swim or drive in swift-flowing water. Even if the water is 15 cm deep, it can sweep you off your feet;
  • Motorist must be very careful and avoid driving through flooded areas.
  • Drive to and park at safer areas.
  • The public must monitor weather alerts on radio and television.
  • The public should contact their municipal disaster management centres or the nearest police station or call the national emergency numbers (112, 10177 or 107) when faced with threats.
  • Do not try to drive over a low-water bridge if water is flowing strongly across it and the ground is not visible.
  • Teach your children about the dangers of floods.
  • Keep your important documents in a water-resistant container.
  • Keep your cell phone in close proximity to you and have emergency numbers at hand.
  • Be especially vigilant at night. It is harder to recognise potentially deadly road hazards.
  • Do not camp or park your car along rivers or washes, especially during heavy rains or thunderstorms.
  • If you are on foot, be aware that low moving water can also be dangerous during flood conditions. If you come upon moving water, do not walk into it.
  • Where possible, communities are encouraged to try to avoid contact with any flood waters. The water may be contaminated with raw sewage, oil or other dangerous substances, and may also be charged with electricity from fallen powerlines.