Two days of fierce storms left hundreds of Johannesburg residents displaced as floods swept away about 239 buildings, including homes and shacks, on 9 and 10 December.
According to David Tembe, member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for community safety, emergency services were inundated with reports coming from all parts of the city.
“Vehicles [were] submerged, people trapped on roofs, collapsed walls and shacks and houses decimated, leaving little to salvage,” he said.
Region D in Klipspruit, Soweto is reportedly the worst affected with 11 houses destroyed, leaving 73 people destitute.
Ten homes, including shacks, are said to have been damaged in nearby Dobsonville, leaving 48 people homeless.
Tembe said that close to Dorothy Nyembe in Meadowlands 52 houses were swept away, 42 shacks in Matholesville, 11 in Doornkop, and seven in Tshepisong.
“It was all hands on deck as public safety deployed boots on the ground to ensure there were teams to evacuate people that were trapped,” he said.
Despite the fact that the floods were not classified as a disaster, the city’s Disaster Management Centre established a hybrid Joint Operation Centre to monitor, assess and provide relief efforts.
As reported by Creamer Media’s Engineering News, Tembe said the multidisciplinary team was made up of important stakeholders including housing, City Power, social development and the Johannesburg Road Agency, among many others.
The situation in Alexandra township’s Sewetla is also bleak. Johannesburg Mayor Mpho Phalatse and other members of the mayoral committee visited the community over the weekend.
Tembe described the situation in that area as that of a community in distress.
“The building of shacks on river banks persists, rendering residents vulnerable and in danger of being swept away by raging floods at any given time.”
Tembe emphasised the need for communities to play their part in ensuring the measures for water safety are put in place by the department.
Following the tragedy on 3 December when 14 congregants lost their lives during a river baptism, the city’s political head for public safety cautioned congregants against conducting rituals that ultimately put their lives at stake.
“As the city, we respect and acknowledge religious practices. The right to exercise one’s faith, and freely, is enshrined in the Constitution. It is with this in mind that we appeal to religious leaders and churchgoers to find alternative ways to conduct their rituals,” he said.