Although the weather forecast for the next week is partly cloudy with little rain to be expected, Hangberg residents who were the victims of floods due to blocked stormwater drains last week are calling on the City of Cape Town to investigate the cause of the blockage and to find a long-term solution to the problem.
On Thursday last week, while thousands of South Africans commemorated the 40th anniversary of the 1976 student uprising on Youth Day, a group of Hangberg residents had little to celebrate as they tried to do damage control after their homes were flooded on Wednesday, June 15, following heavy rains.
And this was not the first time the residents who have temporary structures built in front of the rental units of blocks V ,W and D, had to do damage control as the problem has been ongoing for the past four weeks.
Although most of the residents could sleep warm and dry after the heavy rains earlier this week, Antonia Viljoen, who lives in a bungalow, said on some days in the past four weeks the water would be knee-deep, making it difficult for residents to come and go and for the children to get to school.
“Everything was wet and it was extremely cold at night,” she said.
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She said at the time residents had called the City of Cape Town several times to have the stormwater drain unblocked but their calls were dismissed because they live in bungalows and not in rental units.
Another resident, Mary-Anne Brink, said it is not the first time the City has been there to “fix” the problem.
“They were here the week before last but failed to fix the problem and we told them that the problem is caused due to all the stormwater drains draining into the main one at the entrance,” she said.
At the time of the Sentinel’s visit to the site on Thursday June 16, City officials were on site pumping water from the main stormwater drain at the entrance to the blocks which seemed to have solved the problem as there were no flooding this week.
However, residents feel the City should be more proactive in their approach of maintaining the stormwater drains in Hangberg.
Civic Association secretary, Roscoe Jacobs said although the problem was solved and residents were given sand bags and plastic sheeting to lift and protect their structures, it was not a solution to the problem and the City needs to investigate the cause of the blockage and suggest a way forward.
He said more than a hundred residents were affected by the floods the previous week and the City could have prevented the floods if the stormwater drains were cleaned and maintained on a regular basis.
He added that he was grateful to City officials who were willing to engage with the people of Hangberg last week to alleviate the problem.
Mayoral committee member for transport, Brett Herron, said the City has been systematically cleaning the stormwater infrastructure for the past 11 months in preparation for the winter rains.
He said the City has a winter readiness programme which started in July last year and will end in June.
“This programme entails maintenance and cleaning of stormwater and river systems to ensure the stormwater network performs as intended during rainfall events.
“We are responsible for 7 500km of pipes and culverts (underground conduits); 180 000 catchpits; 85 000 manholes; 850 stormwater ponds and 1 200 km of rivers, canals and open channels,” he said.
He added that the greatest cause of localised flooding is the blockage of the stormwater system due to dumping.
“People who dump their waste into the stormwater system directly or throw garbage into the streets and gulleys, cause the stormwater pipes to block and this causes the flooding.
“We cannot prevent flooding if people continue to dump waste into the pipes after we have cleaned them,” he said.
However, Ms Viljoen said there were no litter removed from the stormwater drain last week and officials removed mostly sand.
Mr Jacobs said the community alone cannot be blamed for the problem as the streets of Hangberg are not cleaned on a regular basis.
“Putting the blame solely on the residents is not fair. They live in a mountainous area where grey water comes down from the mountain and washes anything in its path with it,” he said.
Mayoral committee member for human settlements, Benedicta van Minnen, said the City’s roads department will be redoing the affected mainline and manholes, including the replacement of the stolen manhole covers.
She said she was unaware that calls from residents not living in rental units were dismissed as all calls that are made via the local Housing Office will be attended to accordingly.
She said all reporting of all faults and service requests need to be submitted via the City’s Call Centre on 0860 103 089, where it will be sent to the relevant officials in the Informal Settlements Department for attention.