Floods displace over 1,000 informal settlement residents in Komani

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Cathcart Road in Komani was covered in water on Wednesday morning as the floodwaters left a trail of destruction in the town, damaging fences, entertainment areas and the picnic area at Queens Casino and flooding the ground floor of a hospital.

A resident, Tshulu said when he got home at 11.30pm the water was just above his feet.

“I tried to remove the water from the house, but I heard a puffing sound and then a loud bang shook my shack. Water started rising from the shack and I decided to move out of the shack. When I opened the shack the water pushed me inside and by then it was above my waist,” he said.

“I climbed on top of the shack and stayed there until 5am when the water finally dropped. The road and the bridge were covered in water and there was nothing we could do,” said Tshulu.

Tshulu was among the more than 1,000 people who were supposed to be given temporary accommodation at the Gali Thembani Special School. He declined, as he cannot leave his shack unattended.

“I have material and things that I cannot leave at the house. Some may be damaged, but I need to be sure,” he said.

Another resident, Siyabonga Sikula, said the problem stemmed from a part of the Komani River being blocked by the municipality when a shop was built in the area.

“This will continue happening until that part of the river is opened to allow water to move to the other side when the main river is flooded,” he said

He said it was painful seeing children swimming in the early hours of the morning in the dirty floodwater.

“There was nothing we could do to stop the water from flooding the areas,” he said.

On Wednesday morning, scores of displaced people were taken to Thobi Kula Indoor Sports Centre where they were given soup and bread, and buses transported people to the Gali Thembani school to spend the night there.

Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) spokesperson Bulelwa Ganyaza said the municipality had activated a joint operations committee “to deliberate on interventions to counter the drastic effects of the floods that befell the area”.

Stakeholders included various local government departments, the SAPS, emergency personnel, Gift of the Givers and the local municipality.

“Around 1,000 people, including about 123 children and 24 infants, are currently housed at Gali Thembani facility. The number is expected to rise, as the rain continues unabated,” she said.

“The Life Queenstown Private Hospital and Queens Casino are adversely affected, compelling the hospital to relocate patients to nearby hospitals. CHDM teams and volunteers worked tirelessly to drain water from the two premises using high-pressure pumps,” Ganyaza said.

Life Healthcare Border-Kei regional executive manager Mathews Moavodi confirmed that the ground floor of the Life Queenstown Private Hospital had been flooded.