DA questions EMM’s response to #floods

Clr Bill Rundle standing near the Aitken Road side of the First Avenue bridge, showing the devastation caused by the whirlpools which were created when the water had nowhere to go.

With the recent flooding that occurred in Edenvale on November 9, many of Edenvale’s residents and the infrastructure in the area were affected.

Multimedia: Videos and gallery from November 9 floods

Bridges in the town remain closed, roads remain damaged and according to the ward 18 councillor, Clr Heather Hart, the DA Shadow MMC for City Planning, many residents are starting to question when the municipality will respond to Edenvale and assist.

Rains cause floods just days after Humphreys’ warning about blocked stormwater drains

“We were appalled by the response of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (EMM) during this frantic situation,” said Clr Hart.

Eastleigh business face closure after flood damage

Clr Hart said despite a pregnant women losing her life, no emergency services visited Edenvale until the rains had stopped and the floods subsided.

The NEWS previously reported that Caroline Sithole and her unborn child died, following the floods that devastated Edenvale.

Flash floods – what you need to know

The 34-year-old went missing on November 9, following the heavy rains and flash floods. She was pregnant at the time of her death.

“At least 28 cars were washed off our flooded roads into flooded rivers. The residents came out with their vehicles and winches, and pulled cars out of the floods, some of those cars still had people in them,” said Clr Hart.

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She commended the business owners and residents of Edenvale who were left on their own.

Despite calls being made to the emergency services number, Clr Hart said resident were told that assistance could only be given after the rains had stopped.

“This was hardly of comfort to people watching cars being washed into rivers and people struggling through floods,” said Clr Hart.

Once the water had subsided, the devastation caused by the the floods could be seen and debris could be seen strewn across Edenvale and its roads.

Clr Bill Rundle, of ward 19, said unless the bridges are deemed disaster areas, it could take upwards of a year to see the bridges repaired.

Clr Rundle said the reason for this is the lengthy process to obtain a water use licence to work in the waterway with heavy equipment.

He said often contractors will not work in waterways during the rainy season as the EMM has a policy in place stating that the municipality cannot be held liable for any accidents or injuries during the rainy season.

“This leaves very little time for contractors to carry out their work because of South Africa’s rainy season,” said Clr Rundle.

According to Clr Rundle, the reason for the damage to the bridges during the flood was because the channels running underneath the bridge could not cope with the volume of water passing through and the waterways were silted up.

“When the water was going under the bridge and the water became too much, the water started backing up which caused whirlpools near the edges of the bridges and saw the soil washed away,” said Clr Rundle.

He said the same happened when the water exited the channel but could not as the banks of the river were silted up and the water was again pushed back, creating whirlpools on the other side of the bridge.

The effects of this can be seen at the First Avenue Bridge.

“The municipality has put aside R20-million to assist Ekurhuleni after the floods,” said Clr Rundle.

However, Clr Rundle said to repair the Dickie Fritz, First and Central Avenue bridges will cost more than R20-million.

“The bridges cannot just be rebuilt. The bridges and the channels underneath have to be upgraded to be able to allow for more water to pass underneath,” said Clr Rundle.

He said if the bridges are just rebuilt, a similar situation could reoccur.

“We want to know the reason for the lack of response from the Disaster Management Centre and why the residents of Edenvale had to fend for themselves,” said Clr Hart.

The NEWS sent inquiries to the EMM, requesting comment and also questioned whether Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Management Services only visited Edenvale after the rains.

In response, Mr William Ntladi, the spokesperson for the DEMS, said all logged calls received through the call centre in Bedfordview which were related to the floods, were responded to accordingly.

He said flood alerts were also received from Emergency Services crew members and EMPD officers on the ground.

He said prior to the floods, all Emergency Fire Station managers monitored flood prone areas and Disaster Management Officers were put on high alert as second responders to flooding incidents.

“There is a flood plan for the municipality that supports any major emergency incidents and/or disasters. The plan outlines a simple process of how multiple stakeholders are activated in an event of high magnitude such as that of November 9. The same process was initiated on the day and a Joint Operation Centre (JOC) was activated. All responders and stakeholders were part of the JOC meetings on strategic, tactical and operational responses,” said Mr Ntladi.

The JOC is still operational to deal with the reported issues and the DEMS is working closely with the South African Weather Services to analyse weather patterns.

“All the councillors and community members are made aware of these patterns,” said Mr Ntladi.

He said a summer awareness campaign will run during the festive season and into the new year, providing information to communities in flood prone areas.

In case of an emergency, contact:

r Municipal direct emergency line – 011 458-0911.

r Cellular phone emergency number – 112.

r National emergency number – 10177.

“Speak clearly on the phone when reporting an emergency. Provide the operators with all the necessary details required. Do not end the conversation until all questions are answered,” said Mr Ntladi.

A request for comment was sent to the EMM on November 30.

Comment was requested by December 2 at 9.30am.

No comment has been received.

Stephan Lehman

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