The City of Cape Town has approved a comprehensive readiness plan to deal with the possible forthcoming winter storms.
According to the South African Weather Service, the Western Cape region can anticipate near-normal rainfall from May to September 2008, but there will probably be several occurrences of extreme weather conditions with possible local flooding during the winter season.
Based on this prediction the City's Disaster Risk Management Centre is gearing itself for major flooding and storm damage in the coming months.
"We have introduced special flood risk reduction measures by our Roads and Stormwater teams," says Cllr Elizabeth Thompson, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, Roads and Stormwater.
Apart from corrective actions during flooding, the readiness plan provides for the pro-active cleaning and upgrading of stormwater infrastructure, drains, regular inspections of retention ponds and watercourses, a public education programme and a disaster response and relief management plan.
There are 170 000 gullies, 7 500 kilometres of pipelines, 1 200 km of watercourses and 800 retention ponds spread across the metropole.
The pro-active cleaning programme is well underway. This includes the cleaning of silt and other debris from underground systems and stormwater catchpits along roadways. In addition, all critical inlet and outlet structures on stormwater ponds will be inspected at regular intervals during winter with particular emphasis on debris removal from these structures. Similar attention is given to intakes on mountain streams.
"The City has identified and mapped, an estimated 4 000 or more "high flood risk" structures within the informal settlements that could be affected during Cape Town's winter storms.
Preventative maintenance programmes within and adjacent to informal settlements are currently well underway. Cleaning frequencies are being increased towards winter and arrangements are in place for regular inspections.
"The various Roads and Stormwater districts have re–aligned and re-prioritised resources in order to increase cleaning frequencies on high flood risk prone areas.
"The City's repair and maintenance budget for stormwater infrastructure amounts to R35 million. Only 10% of this budget is used on repairing physical infrastructure. The balance is used to clean the systems of sand, debris and litter," says Cllr Thompson.
A crucial part of the readiness plan is to warn residents in high-risk flood areas about the possibility of flooding. In consultation with local communities every effort is made to warn all high risk flood prone areas of their status. There is also an on-going programme to prevent further encroachment onto stormwater ponds, watercourses and floodplains.
"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. The City has prepared a trilingual brochure, entitled ‘Protect Yourself from Floods", which is being distributed to residents in high-risk flood areas," says Cllr Dumisani Ximbi, Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security.
The City's emergency plan is co-ordinated by a Disaster Coordinating Team ( DCT) 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.
"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. Halls do not offer privacy, and will therefore be a last resort," says Cllr Ximbi.
Together with identified NGOs, various City services will disseminate blankets, food and basic necessities to flood victims, providing for their immediate and basic needs. The City will provide specific information with regard to health issues, the registration of victims and emergency shelters.
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
* Report any blocked drains, intakes and illegal dumping
* 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.
"Despite the City's preparedness, we would like to point out that flooding and mudslides may still occur due to variable climatic conditions," Cllr Ximbi says.
Due to the very nature of flooding, this cannot be completely prevented as rainfall often exceeds the design capacity of the stormwater system.
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.
21 APRIL 2008
CITY OF CAPE TOWN
TEL: 021 400 3719
HENRY DU PLESSIS
DIRECTOR: ROADS & STORMWATER
TEL: 021 400 3720 CELL: 084 220 0227
DISASTER RISK MANAGEMENT CENTRE
TEL: 021 597 5009 CELL: 084 711 7723