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06 July 2011

Storm rampages through East London


MOPPING UP: Egoli resident Ellen Kiddo cleans up what’s left of her shack, which was destroyed by the heavy rains in East London yesterday. Picture: ALAN EASON

ZWANGA MUKHUTHU, POLISWA PLAATJIE, VUYO ZONDEKI and BONGO JACOB

MOTORISTS were rescued from flooded roads in East London yesterday, businesses were shut, homes and roads were damaged and trees uprooted when gale-force storms driving heavy rains lashed the city yesterday. The rain and wind wreaked havoc across the city and desperate residents scrambled to save their belongings, while others tried – and failed – to avoid flooded roads.

Thousands of residents living in informal settlements were affected. The Buffalo City Metro (BCM) yesterday opened community halls in Gompo and Mzamomhle to accommodate those left homeless. Spokesperson Keith Ngesi said 4000 people were affected in Mzamomhle, near Gonubie, and about 41 in Egoli. The city was yesterday organising blankets for those who had been displaced.

Flooding brought business to a standstill for some shops in Vincent Park Shopping Centre and Hemingways Mall. The whole bottom level of Vincent Park was under water. Pictures submitted to the Daily Dispatch by readers showed shoppers wading through the water. Shops such as Pick n Pay, Mr Price, Clicks, Health Wise, Wimpy and many more were flooded and remained shut yesterday. Health Wise manager Laksmi Rama said she would need "a week to sort out the mess".

Vincent Park centre manager Joseph Parsley said following flooding problems a few years back, a "substantial" investment was made to fix the damage. "We want to get the operation sorted out to get back to business." He said they would look into the infrastructure of the mall following yesterday’s flood, adding that it was still too early to put figures to the damage caused .

At Hemingways Mall, individual stores were also affected by the deluge. Staff at Baby Boom were busy clearing the store because water had damaged boxes carrying goods. Assistant store manager Lario Peterson said they believed the water might have come through the back of the shop.

Flooded roads were backed up yesterday morning, with some motorists taking more than two hours from Gonubie to the city centre. Motorists on the North East Expressway had to make U-turns when confronted by a flooded valley in the road due to blocked drainage.

According to Arrive Alive spokesperson Tshepo Machaea, many accident reports came through yesterday morning. "East London had more cases than other parts of the province but no one was reported injured in that area and most of the accidents were because cars couldn’t see roads clearly because of the heavy rains," he said.

"The only fatal accident reported was a head-on collision between a bus and a Polo, which happened between Cofimvaba and Ngcobo and left three passengers in the Polo dead.

"Damage on the roads – figures are not yet accessible but most roads are flooded."

At the Lennox Road and Milner Street intersection in North End, East London, large parts of the road were torn up , making it almost impassable. One driver, Nicholas Mitchell, who attempted to cross the damaged road during the downpour, became stuck and had to call a tow- truck to pull his car to safety.

In the same area, a funeral parlour had major flood damage . Bathethele Funeral Services owner Vuyisile Richard Ngoma said: "The municipality must make plans to help those affected by these floods. A lot has been damaged.

"This is the fourth time now, and everything has become a mess. I am losing thousands."

"These floods were so strong they pushed down a container that has generators and car tyre machines to the other side of the road."

In Mzamomhle, water was streaming between shacks and a resident, Vuyani Dlova, said people living there were suffering. uywuyu\
Ellen Kiddo, 36, an unemployed mother from Egoli, said she almost lost her life when at about 7am yesterday her shack collapsed while she was still in bed. She escaped unharmed with her 14-year-old son.

"Everything is damaged. My groceries are wet, my bed is wet, my child’s school text books are all wet." Kiddo, who has to take chronic medication, said her hospital medical file and medication were also damaged.

A few metres away, about 100 Egoli residents were protesting over badly-built RDP houses.

David du Preez, 51, and four family members, including a disabled daughter, escaped the floods through a window because the door to the house was blocked by a "dam" of rain water. "If we opened the door, all the water was going to come in so we just had to use the window," he said.

Provincial disaster management chief Captain John Fobian said several houses in Cambridge, Dorchester Heights and Scenery Park were flooded, according to reports received.

- Daily Dispatch