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WATCH | Clean-up operations begin in Ladysmith as water level subsides

The empty Ladysmith taxi rank that was affected by heavy rain.
The empty Ladysmith taxi rank that was affected by heavy rain.
Image: Mlungisi Mbele

Overnight water levels subsided significantly as business owners were left counting their losses along muddy and puddle-filled streets on the periphery of the Klip River on Wednesday morning.

At least 125 people were rescued after being evacuated from their business premises and homes as police search and rescue teams‚ with members of non-profit organisations‚ waded through flooded streets using rafts to help people get to safety.

Asia Bayjoua‚ 52‚ owner of the shop Kwa Jilani on Forbes Street‚ said they had experienced flooding in the past but the latest incident was unprecedented.

“Last February we had a flood but it wasn't as severe as this. This one was really bad. I know I have a massive loss. My fridges are damaged‚ my stove is damaged‚ my counters are broken. The force of the water destroyed everything.”

She laid the blame on a poor drainage system‚ claiming storm water drains had been blocked.

“It's the drainage system. The last flood we had the municipality didn't come and clean up. On Wednesday we also had a flood. There was no municipality coming to help us clean up. We clean the streets‚ roads and shops on our own. No-one came to help or clean the drains.”

Stains on the walls outside Bayjoua's shop show how high the water level reached‚ peaking at more than 1m.

Across the road at the Ladysmith taxi rank‚ small business owners waded through murky pools of stagnant water‚ hoping the ominous clouds did not release more rain.

Abed Karrim of the Al-Imdaad Foundation said they and other NGOs had provided meals to at least 122 people sheltered at the Ladysmith Indoors Centre on Monday and Tuesday.

Karrim said it was a sad day for business owners and people who were evacuated from their homes.

He questioned the functioning of the Qedusizi Dam‚ which had initially been designed to restrict water entering the Ladysmith part of the Klip River to prevent flooding.

Asia Bayjoua cleans her shop in the Ladysmith CBD.
Asia Bayjoua cleans her shop in the Ladysmith CBD.
Image: Mlungisi Mbele

“I would be happy if disaster management could get consultants from the engineering department to relook at this dam‚ whether it's serving its purpose‚ because we can't keep living like this. Last week businesses were closed for three days. This week businesses are closed‚ and coming from Covid-19 when people were shut down. This is a disaster for businesses‚” he said.

DA constituency head for the Uthukela district Alf Lees said they would ensure the mandate given to the consultant included establishing the cause of the flooding and whether any officials should be held accountable for having wrongly approved new building plans‚ failing to comply with obligations to keep the riverbed clear of vegetation and excess silt‚ or any other failure that contributed to the flooding.

“There can be no doubt one of the main causes has been the inability of the river channelling through Ladysmith‚ which continues towards Pieters [railway station]‚ to cope with the limited volume of water exiting from the Qedusizi Dam‚” said Lees.

He said other contributing factors include unmaintained and blocked storm water drains and considerable commercial development in areas at risk of flooding being approved by the Alfred Duma municipality.

KwaZulu-Natal co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Sipho Hlomuka visited the town on Tuesday‚ assuring business owners and residents of government's commitment to deal with the cause of the flooding and to find a permanent solution to protect the town from future floods.

Hlomuka said at least 25 people had lost their lives in the province due to recent inclement weather.


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