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Friday, April 12, 2024
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Update on road closures

Premier Alan Winde, several members of his Cabinet, and Western Cape Government (WCG) officials today gave an update on the provincial government’s efforts to repair and reopen roads, and other infrastructure, which were severely damaged in the storms and ensuing flooding that hit parts of the province over the Heritage long weekend.

The Premier thanked all WCG departments and stakeholders who have been working tirelessly to repair damaged road infrastructure, which included the approach to the McGregor bridge.

Part of the road approaching the bridge was washed away in the flooding, cutting off the community of McGregor. “Repairing this damage was among our most pressing priorities. Due to teamwork and a sense of urgency, within 3 weeks the bridge was repaired and reopened, allowing McGregor to return to full economic activity,” he said.

Roads and other critical infrastructure

Immediately after the adverse weather system in September, 154 roads had to be closed. This included sections of the N2 and N1, making relief and rescue work difficult. Thanks to the work of the Western Cape Department of Infrastructure (DOI), this number is now down to 37 roads. Steady progress is being made to reopen all affected roads including the following:

  • Clarence Drive remains closed, but it is currently possible to travel from Gordon’s Bay to the “The Grille Shack” and back. On-site repair teams are working from both the Grille Shack and Rooi Els sides to restore those parts of the road that repair teams can reach. We are confident that we will be able to open the section of Clarence Drive between the Grille Shack and Kogel Bay Beach by the end of November. It is currently not clear when the entire length of Clarence Drive will be open to two-way traffic due to significant damage to the road between Kogel Bay Beach and Rooi Els. However, the DOI is focusing on reopening one lane of traffic along Clarence Drive, with traffic flow managed by stop/ go traffic controls as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • The Hemel-en-Aarde Road remains closed between Caledon and Hermanus, but it is currently possible to travel between Caledon and Camphill. There is an alternative route between Camphill via Karwyderskraal to the R43 near Hermanus. The section from Camphill to the R43 remains closed for repairs. A geotechnical engineer has declared this section of the road unsafe. The DOI has deployed teams to start work on building temporary bypasses in unstable areas for single lane of traffic. Once the single-lane temporary bypasses are in place along this road, traffic will be managed through stop/ go traffic operations.
  • Work is well under way to fully reopen the R43 and R44 intersection near Kleinmond. Single lane traffic is currently open at this intersection managed by stop / go operations. After initial assessments and further investigations, it has been determined that the repairs at this intersection are expected to be completed by the end of January 2024.
  • Franschhoek Pass remains closed due to landslides. Teams are working to reopen one lane of traffic by the end of November. Once a single lane has been reopened, traffic will be managed through stop/ go traffic operations. However, it is unlikely that heavy motor vehicles will be allowed to use this pass when it is opened to single-lane traffic.

The South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) has started work on repairing the section of the N2 in the vicinity of Botrivier which was washed away, and they report that they are hoping to reopen the road by the end of November.

Reopening all affected roads remains a top priority of the WCG. When a road is closed, it cannot be used at all by vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Having people cycling through sites for recreational purposes adds a significant risk of injury and creates the risk that a site may be shut down for not adhering to occupational health and safety regulations.

Minister of Infrastructure, Tertuis Simmers, said, “We thank road users for their patience and understanding during this difficult period. The investment in the capacitation of internal resources and districts over the years has proven to be a great investment. This allowed us to not only respond promptly but also ensured a financial saving for the department as we minimised the costs of having to go out for tender. The collaboration between the two spheres of government, civil society organisations, agriculture, and private sector has been pivotal in the response to restoring the damaged infrastructure.”

Minister Simmers added “The WCG has once again proven to be efficient, by restoring, rebuilding, and reopening multiple roads that were severely damaged within record time.”

Provincial Minister of Mobility, Ricardo Mackenzie, praised all traffic officials, “The Western Cape Mobility Department redeployed hundreds of Provincial Traffic Officers during the flooding, over and above the usual pressures of long weekend operations, working more than a thousand hours of overtime overall. I am proud of these women and men, who worked long hours in cold and wet conditions to safely direct and divert traffic away from damaged or flooded roads. Many potential road crashes, and loss of life, were prevented through their dedication.”

The inclement weather also left more than 82 000 people without power. Through the hard work of Eskom’s technical teams, this number was reduced to only 1 000 faults within less than a week after the flooding.

The Overstrand Municipality suffered damages to major bulk water infrastructure during the September floods, and the town of Hermanus and its surrounds were without any piped water in the aftermath. The municipality managed to connect water supplies within less than a week during which time water tankers from across the province were made available to ensure the availability of water to residents.

Disaster Declaration

Anton Bredell, Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning said administrative progress is being made with the declarations of disasters following the September and June storms.

“In terms of the June flooding, we have received the classification for a provincial state of disaster from the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC). We are now in the process of gazetting it. Regarding the September storm damages, we have sent a request for a provincial classification to the NDMC and are awaiting a response,” Minister Bredell said.

He continued, “These processes take time. Once the disaster is gazetted, we will lodge a request to the NDMC for funding to cover the recovery and rehabilitation of the affected infrastructure. The NDMC then has the option to appoint independent assessors to visit the affected areas and evaluate the claims. Once this is completed, the centre can request National Treasury to make funding available. Funding will then only become available during an adjustment budget process and might not be the full amount we requested, as it is subject to budget availability at the time.”

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning has also assisted landowners with emergency environmental approvals to repair damaged river crossings and other repair work that would otherwise have required lengthy processes. “The department has issued more than 100 of these approvals in less than 2 weeks in order to allow people to get back to business as quickly as possible.

Minister Bredell also expressed his gratitude to all those who worked hard to keep the public safe and restore essential services in the aftermath of the severe weather experienced in late September. “It is important to give recognition to the many people and organisations that assisted us during these severe weather events. While it is tragic that lives were lost, countless lives were also saved.”

Premier Winde lauded the Provincial Disaster Management Centre which played a leading role in the provincial response efforts, as it coordinated and facilitated all stakeholders during these times.

Apart from the provincial government, stakeholders who were critical in responding to the natural disasters included the South African Weather Service, the South African National Defence Force, the South African Police Service, the National Disaster Management Centre, regional disaster centres, the National Department of Water and Sanitation, National Sea Rescue Institute, Agri Western Cape and the South African Social Security Agency.

The distress experienced by countless people during these storms was a key concern. The Western Cape Department of Social Development’s (DSD) coordinated psycho-social services and facilitated access to humanitarian relief for affected communities. Besides providing trauma counseling and other psycho-social support, DSD social workers worked tirelessly with municipalities to assess the urgent needs of families whose homes were flooded, like providing emergency baby packs in Ashton.

Social Development

The DSD partnered with the Red Cross Society to assist with the collection and distribution of donations.

“Disasters like these can bring out the best in our province and country,” remarked the Premier. The private sector stepped up to help, working together with the WCG, its partners and NGOs to ensure that the disaster response went as smoothly as possible.

Several NGOs provided humanitarian aid to those in need, namely: Gift of the Givers, the South African Red Cross Society, Ashraful Aid International, Al-Imdaad Foundation, Heal Our Land, and the WeLoveU Foundation.

Education

A number of schools were also affected in various ways by the storms and flooding.

Heather van Ster, Chief Director: Districts at the Western Cape Department of Education, said all but one school was able to open as normal after the school holidays.

Learners and teachers from Sandhills NGK Primary School, which suffered serious damages during the storm, are being accommodated at alternate sites so that teaching and learning can continue while repairs are under way.

Tourism

Mireille Wenger, provincial Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities stated, “We have experienced the devastation caused by the severe storms and rainfall over the Heritage weekend, which forced businesses to close, resulting in millions of Rands worth of lost revenue on top of the losses and damage sustained to property. Our thoughts are with these businesses, and I can confirm that our Department of Economic Development and Tourism is exploring different avenues to provide support. Yet, despite going through very difficult times, this sector keeps bouncing back, showing such grit that pays dividends down the line for so many in this province.

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