Flood-hit SA town counts costs

Assessment of flood damage in the area continued late into last week, as local government officials sought to count the toll of the real extent of damage caused by floods that have rocked the area for most of the past five weeks. Estimations are that at least 1 500 houses, several roads and a significant number of bridges were damaged by the floods, while the majority of farmers in the area are still to take stock of the extent of destroyed crops. Taung Mayor Boitumelo Mahlangu said last week “a lot of other facilities” including sanitation amenities were also destroyed by the floods. Two weeks ago, officials reported that water in Taung had tested positive for E Coli, a bacteria that has already caused an outbreak of diarrhoea and vomiting in six villages in the area. In the midst of the floods, Mahlangu said local officials had appealed to Sedibeng Water for the supply of clean water, and that an appeal had also been sent through to the provincial and national government for urgent assistance to begin the reconstruction process. “‘engineers have been appointed to conduct the assessment and we only expect a report back on Wednesday or Thursday,” Mahlangu said last week on Monday. Details of the reports were still not available by the time of going to print. Meanwhile, some farmers in the Northern Cape say they want the area declared a disaster area due to the devastating flood conditions that have stopped production in the area for more than a month. The farmers, most of whom operate in the area beneath the Spitskop dam said they were in the process of making a formal application for disaster status, which would ensure additional flood assistance from both the provincial and national governments. Wessel van der Merwe, deputy president of Agriculture in the Northern Cape told a local daily, “We have already warned the MEC (provincial minister) of agriculture, the Department of Agriculture (and Land Affairs) and Parliament representatives that an application to be declared a disaster area was on its way”. “Some arable land beneath the Spitskop dam has been under water for about a month due to previous floods. Some has drained but recent floods have worsened the situation,” he added. The floods have caused damage to crops, arable land (due to erosion), irrigation systems and structures in the North West, while one farm reportedly lost 286ha of lucerne. Fears are largely that the majority of farmers in the province will not be able to rebuild their properties due to the large extent of the damage. Van der Merwe said there was widespread “danger” that the plight of a significant number of farm workers would worsen, as they were largely expected to lose their jobs only weeks after having lost their homes and property.

April 2006
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