Hundreds evacuated as Defence Force joins rescue mission in flood-ravaged Port St Johns, Eastern Cape
Port St Johns on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape has so far been reported as the hardest hit by heavy Easter rains with many of its roads submerged. Hundreds of Green Farm residents at Port St Johns have been evacuated to safety and according to the OR Tambo Disaster Management team, which is spearheading the evacuation procedures, many residents in the area were still trapped by the flash floods on Tuesday, 23 April 2019.
The Provincial Traffic Department appealed to all road users, including pedestrians to avoid crossing overflowing rivers and bridges as rain continues to fall heavily in most parts of the province.
Ayanda Gantsho, the speaker of the Port St Johns Municipality, explained that the embattled residents had been moved to a town hall on higher ground. Gantsho also called on fellow South Africans to assist with the relief efforts. Some areas in Ngqeleni are also overflowing.
Also, be on the lookout when traveling through mountainous areas as rockfalls have been reported in some parts such as the Kei Cuttings.
There's also a weather watch from the Port Elizabeth Branch of the SA Weather Service. Heavy rain was expected along the southeast coast and the southern interior between Fish River and Port Edward. Localised flooding is expected in places east of Cannon Rocks, including places over the southern interior.
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) arrived in Port St Johns on Tuesday to help rescue and evacuate hundreds of residents left homeless by torrential overnight rains that flooded the coastal town in the Eastern Cape. Defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula said military rescue teams were dispatched to affected areas where they will work with other disaster teams. People affected by the floods would be moved to higher ground and shelters.
Initial reports on Monday night by the SABC said that hundreds of people, mostly women and children, were evacuated from the badly flooded Green Farm in the coastal town. Khunjulwa Mlata told the broadcaster, "I discovered when I go out again that the room was full of water. All the belongings inside were just swept away. I took the kids outside to the municipality vehicle that was standing outside already. We just decided to take the kids."
Lunga Mnxulwa, speaking on behalf of the Provincial Disaster Management Centre in the Eastern Cape, said a Provincial Joint Operating Committee was set up immediately following the floods and all operations relating to the disaster were coordinated from there. Their immediate task was to complete needs assessment reports and evaluate how to prioritise resources. This involved several departments including Health, Public Works, SANRAL, SAPS and CoGTA.
Mnxulwa confirmed four flood related deaths. All were drownings. A child died when she was swept away while playing next to a swollen riverbank, while three other people were attempting to cross rivers when they drowned.
President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to visit the flood hit area an Thursday, 25 April 2019.
OR Tambo district municipality spokesperson Andile Duka said that rescue teams had evacuated a large number of people until late on Monday evening after heavy downpours. Residents had been taken to safety at the town hall and churches. "This morning reports came via various mediums about flooding occuring at Green Farm. Further reports were received of river flooding in Ngqeleni under Nyandeni local municipality and Blekana River in King Sabata Dalindyebo local municipality," said Duka.
More than 100 people were relocated to the town hall in Port St Johns, mostly tenants and home owners. Local businesses had donated food, blankets and home-cooked meals to the displaced.
Duka said there were "challenges are around mobility, access to flooded areas, risk of electrocution and continued damage to personal and government property". At least 328 people were affected when 100 houses were flooded, according to preliminary reports.
Source: News24, Times Live, IOL and Lunga Mnxulwa, Provincial Disaster Management Centre, Eastern Cape