The City of Cape Town has initiated a comprehensive action plan to deal with the winter storms which started hitting the City last week.
Apart from corrective actions during flooding, the plan provides for the pro-active clearing of stormwater systems, drains, the upgrading of stormwater systems, regular inspections of retention ponds, watercourses, a public education programme and a disaster management plan.
The programmed preventative maintenance is well underway. This work includes cleaning silt and other debris from underground systems and stormwater intakes along roadways. In addition, all critical stormwater detention ponds will be inspected at regular intervals during winter with particular emphasis on debris removal from outlet structures. Similar attention is given to intakes of mountain streams.
According to the South African Weather Service the Western Cape can anticipate above normal rainfall from May to September 2007
"The City has identified and mapped high flood risk areas. Past experience tells us that at least 5 000 informal dwellings could be affected if Cape Town has a 'normal' winter. This figure is based on assessments of previous flood events. However, according to the latest predictions, this figure could rise drastically depending on the intensity of the expected storms," says Cllr Dumisani Ximbi, Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security.
"Since last November we have introduced special flood risk reduction measures, such as improved drainage and preventative maintenance of existing stormwater systems by our Roads, Transport and Stormwater teams.
"The City's budget to pro-actively clear stormwater systems amounts to R32m. To date up to 75% of the budget has been spent on the cleaning of stormwater systems and drains in eight districts, and dedicated teams are on standby to help in an emergency," he says.
In addition to the Provincial budget for disaster relief, the City has projected R2 million for humanitarian and social disaster relief such as meals, blankets, and baby food. Another R1,2 million has been budgeted for materials, repairs and maintenance, security services and staff overtime.
"As part of our ongoing public education and environmental training programme, residents are given practical tips on how to raise floor levels, divert flood waters, as well as reduce health hazards associated with stagnant water," says Cllr Ximbi.
The City's emergency plan is co-ordinated at a Joint Operations Centre (JOC) where a multi-disciplinary rapid response team manages and executes contingency plans. It also acts as a central information point to inform the public through fast and effective communication during emergencies.
"The first seasonal storms have proved that the system is working. Once it receives a severe weather warning, the City immediately communicates the news directly to the areas at risk.
"We have also identified various emergency shelters to help minimise the disruption of lives and community activities. People will be encouraged to first try and find alternative accommodation with neighbours, friends or families before being housed in community facilities.
"Community halls do not offer privacy and this affects the dignity of already traumatised flood victims. This will therefore be a last resort," says Cllr Ximbi.
Together with identified NGOs, the Disaster Risk Management team disseminates blankets, food and basic necessities to flood victims, to provide for the immediate, basic needs. It also provides specific information with regard to health issues, the registration of victims and emergency shelters.
High risk areas include the informal settlements on the Cape Flats, areas within or next to stormwater ponds, areas below mountain slopes with a history of previous land or mudslides, as well as areas along the north-western coast of Cape Town.
"Residents can reduce their vulnerability by implementing the following tips:
- Check that the drainage system on your property is not blocked
- Raise the floor level of your house to be higher than the land outside
- Move to higher ground if you stay in a flood-prone area
- Dig furrows around the house to divert water away from the home
- Waterproof roofs
- Clear gutters, down-pipes and furrows
- Remove dead branches from trees
- Secure furniture that can be blown over or damaged by the wind
- Report any blocked drains, intakes and illegal dumping
"Despite the City's preparedness, we would like to point out that flooding and mudslides may still occur due the variable climatic conditions," Cllr Ximbi says. Flooding, blocked drains and service disruptions can be reported to the all hours Technical Operations Centre at 0860 103 054.
In the event of a life- or property threatening emergency, contact 107 from a landline or (021 480 7700 from a cellphone.
2 JUNE 2007
CITY OF CAPE TOWN
TEL: 021 400 2201
FAX: 021 957 0023
DISASTER RISK MANAGEMENT
TEL: 021 597 5111 OR
CELL: 084 220 0074