Fighting floods on TRA

Bonile Hashe fears water will drop onto her electricity box, sparking a fire.

The first heavy rains of the year were always going to be a test for the temporary relocation area (TRA) units in Imizamo Yethu.

The shacks on the Disa and Depot sites were established last year after victims of the March 11 fire were housed at the Hout Bay Sports Complex for eight months (“Residents move onto TRA site,” Sentinel, December 8).

One of the major gripes about the sports complex housing, which became known as “Silver City”, was that shacks were frequently flooded, resulting in residents becoming ill.

In the wake of the past few weeks’ heavy showers, with even more rain expected today, Friday June 1, the Sentinel visited the two TRAs to gauge from residents how the temporary units are standing up to the weather.

At the Disa site, large pools of water have collected between the shacks and, according to residents, have remained there since the first rains earlier this month.

One such pool is outside the home of Bonile Hashe. She shares the 3m x 3m shack with her 8-year-old daughter.

Ms Hashe said it was ironic the site had been without running water for about a week, now it had water but in all the wrong places.

“The rain has been coming though the bottom of our shacks, but also through the roof (in gaps between the sheet metal). It is very cold for me and my daughter,” she said.

“Then there is the pool outside my door. I have spoken to the people from the City, and they said they would come to put in a drain, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

Ms Hashe fears water could drip onto the pre-paid electricity box in the shack, heightening the chances of fire or electrocution.

“I am happy here (at the TRA), but it’s not good the way these shacks have been put together. They don’t keep out the rain.”

As opposed to the Depot site, where shacks have been established along a tier system down the hill, the Disa site’s typography is flat. In some cases, residents have poured and set concrete around the base of their shacks to prevent water from coming in, but not everyone is able to do that.

Phumeza Mkhonwana, 24, said water always came through gaps in the sheet-metal roofs whenever it rained.

“It pours down onto my bed. Even when I move my bed to the other side of the room, it still gets wet. The water also comes in under the door,” she said.

“It is winter now, and it looks like there is going to be a lot more rain. I hope the City can help us so the water doesn’t come in anymore.”

The floor of the home of Wellington Mathafeni, 37, was soaked from last weekend’s rains.

“I keep having to sweep the water out,” he said, trying to warm himself with coffee.

“I don’t think these shacks were built properly. I put two bags of cement around my shack, but the water is still coming in through the roof.”

The situation at the Depot site couldn’t have been more different, however.

While roads and paths at the bottom of the site were muddy, residents appeared to have been spared leaks in their shacks.

“The only pace where there’s been water is on the step outside,” one man said.

Another woman, who identified herself as “Amanda”, agreed that Depot residents were happy with the water resistance of their shacks.

Stuart Diamond, acting mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water, waste services and energy, said the City was aware of the lack of running water at the Disa site.

“There are currently concerns regarding the water quality at the Disa TRA as well as at the Disa Primary school. The valve connecting the TRA to the municipal mains has been closed as a precaution until feedback is received from the scientific services and the environmental health department, giving the all-clear to re-instate the supply,” he said.

“Regular testing and flushing of the mains is being conducted by the water and sanitation department to determine the origin of any potential cross-contamination. In the interim, a water tanker has been dispatched on a daily basis to Disa TRA.”

He said the City’s informal settlements management department did regular assessments and had given flood kits to those affected by rain water.

“The contractors are in the process of installing stormwater channels on the site as well as at the base of the embankment on the top of the site to prevent rainwater flowing down the embankment from entering the structures.”

Asked about the discrepancy between the two sites, Mr Diamond said the Depot site had in fact been “badly affected” by rainwater in certain areas as a result of rain a few weeks ago, while the Disa site was relatively unaffected.

“At the time, the Depot site was prioritised and stormwater interventions in the form of stormwater channels were installed. These types of interventions are similarly in the process of being installed at the Disa site. The topography also plays a big part as the steeper grades at Depot assists in having the stormwater discharged from the site more readily, whereas on Disa the flat grades result in localised ponding in certain sections. This can be exacerbated by modifications residents are making to the structures which affect the flow of stormwater.”