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The O.R. Tambo District Municipality is counting the cost of the heavy downpours that wreaked havoc in three municipalities, leaving four people dead and causing damage to infrastructure in the Eastern Cape.
The floods are reported to have also claimed the life of a man who slipped over an embankment while fishing at King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality on Friday.
A 42-year-old man who went missing on Friday is yet to be found.
Three local municipalities have been severely affected by the floods; including Ingquza Hill and King Sabata Dalindyebo, with Port St Johns Municipality being the most affected.
OR Tambo municipality spokesperson Zimkhita Macingwane said 10 bridges have washed away in Port St Johns.
This made it difficult for residents to access schools and facilities nearby.
“The heavy downpours have left a trail of destruction to infrastructure, households, and businesses.
“The OR Tambo Disaster and Risk Management teams continue to assess the extent of the damages,” she said.
Eastern Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said police were investigating two inquest dockets.
“The third victim, Mhlabunzima Sikhathele, who also drowned at Luthezane River on 2023-03-23, has not been found.
Divers are still at the scene 24 hours searching for the outstanding person,” he said.
This comes as several areas in the Eastern Cape were hit by raging floods in April last year.
As a response to the April 2022 flood disaster, Port St Johns was among the municipalities allocated funds through the National Treasury’s Municipal Disaster Relief Grant.
The number of people who have been left homeless last year has now risen to 1 256.
Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane said they were particularly concerned by the impact on lives and livelihoods.
“Last week’s heavy downpours which resulted in floods have really wreaked havoc in the province and they impact our ability to continue with rebuilding damaged infrastructure and bringing life back into normality.
We are particularly concerned with the impact on lives and livelihoods,” he said.
“Coffee Bay had just welcomed the SANDF deployment that is there to fix damaged bridges, roads, clear debris, and purify and improve provision of water.
“Various sectors of the provincial government are mobilising assistance and resources so as to respond adequately and save lives and livelihoods in PSJ and other affected communities. Disaster management teams will continue to be on standby to provide assistance where required. We urge the public to be extra vigilant and exercise caution, especially in areas prone to flooding and also follow the regular updates and warning messages from the South African Weather Service,” Mabuyane said.
Meanwhile a group of eight hikers was rescued after the weekend downpours flooded a river George.
The hikers had started their mission last Sunday on the Witels hike – a favourite wilderness “kloofing” hike-and-swim, between Worcester and Ceres, where hikers swim, wade and hike down the canyon, and exit below the Michell’s Pass.
They were anticipating exiting the canyon on Thursday.
But after the weekend’s torrential downpours, the group alerted family members via satellite phone that the river level had risen dramatically, and they were delayed.
They were also running seriously low on food.
Wilderness Search and Rescue received a call for assistance on Saturday afternoon, and a team of 22 rescuers was dispatched to locate and rescue the stranded hikers.
On Saturday evening, as dark fell, the team was prevented from entering the kloof by the raging waters exiting the Witels River.
At first light on Sunday morning, a group of more than 30 rescuers readied themselves, before a small team was flown into the kloof to locate the stranded hikers.