Flood disaster in Sir Lowry’s Pass Village and City’s response

COUNCILLLOR NORMAN MCFARLANE, WARD 84, SOMERSET WEST

On the night of Sunday September 24, a major flood disaster struck the community of Sir Lowry’s Pass Village.

Rainfall of 145mm fell over a 24-hour period, causing significant damage to infrastructure, roads, and dwellings within the Sir Lowry’s Pass River 2-year flood line.

The river burst its banks in the early hours of Monday morning.

Many people in proclaimed informal settlements such as Rastakamp, Pinetown, and Uitkyk were hard hit by the flood with many dwellings being completely inundated by water, sand and mud.

The hardest hit was Uitkyk. When the river burst its banks, it flooded across the community sportsfields, and almost completely buried Uitkyk under sand and mud. The entire community, numbering some 50 dwellings was displaced.

The City took immediate action, and by Monday morning, a Disaster Risk Management relief team was on the ground conducting a full assessment of damage caused, and determining what relief was required.

Informal Settlements Management proceeded with the enumeration of families requiring relief aid and relocation.

Once the flood waters had subsided, clearing up work commenced, a considerable component of which, was clearing the roads of sand and mud. This work was done by City’s Urban Waste Management directorate.

Included in this clean-up was the initial removal of sand that had inundated Uitkyk. That work is on-going, with the intention of clearing all sand between the houses, to make the dwellings accessible so that personal possessions can be recovered.

In the meantime, 21 families (31 people) were accommodated in the Sir Lowry’s Pass Community Hall, while the remainder of affected Uitkyk residents chose to seek temporary shelter with friends and family in the village.

The City’s Informal Settlements directorate, after consultation with the displaced people of Uitkyk, plans to relocate the entire community to a new area which is not below the 2-year flood line, to avoid a repeat of this disaster.

A land parcel has been identified, and processes are underway to prepare it for the movement of the Uitkyk community to this new location.

A number of residents from other informal settlements in the village have requested to be relocated as well, and they will be accommodated.

Each identified beneficiary will be assigned a portion of land, and a housing kit from National Department of Human Settlements, distributed by the City, will be made available to all identified beneficiaries.

The City is seeking a more viable alternative to accommodate the residents currently housed in the community hall in the medium term, while the land parcel is prepared for the relocation initiative.

The narrative, rife on social media in Sir Lowry’s Pass Village, that the flood happened because “die boere het hulle sluise oopgemaak”, is little other than unfounded, mischief-making speculation, with no basis in fact.

The Sir Lowry’s Pass River, with its headwaters in the Hottentots Holland Mountains, is not dammed, so there are no sluice gates on the river.

There are two farm dams north of Sir Lowry’s Pass Village, one of which has an abstraction tower.

The other dam has an overflow channel on one side, channelling overflow down onto the adjacent road. In neither of the dams are there mechanical sluice gates visible, so there is nothing to open.