Shortly before the start of the school holidays, 16 schools in the Western Cape had to close due to damage caused by heavy rain and flooding.
Alan Meyer, deputy director general of the provincial education department, says these schools have indicated that they cannot continue teaching due to damage to infrastructure and because access to the schools cannot be obtained. These schools are located in the Cape Wineland, the Overberg and Metro-East.
“A total of 152 schools suffered damage due to the storms and flooding. The damage ranges from leaking roofs to trees that have fallen on buildings,” says Meyer.
“In total, 242 schools were affected in one way or another by the storm, the majority of which indicated that low student attendance was particularly a problem.”
According to Meyer, it is provisionally estimated that 26% of children who go to school in 1,076 schools across the province cannot get to school because the road infrastructure is badly damaged.
Parts of the Central Karoo, the Overberg and the Cape Wineland suffered particularly severe flood damage.
“Many areas’ mobile phone signal is also fading and this is hindering our efforts to gather more information from schools. This means that these figures can change every hour and that there may be even more schools and learners affected by the flooding,” says Meyer.
There are currently 87 provincial roads closed as a result of the flooding.
Jandré Bakker, spokesperson for the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works, says the Franschhoek Pass is closed to traffic at this stage, as well as Chapmanspiek, Meiringspoort and the Swartberg Pass.
Meanwhile, hospitals are scrambling to keep their doors open.
Wayne Smith from the provincial department of health says most large hospitals such as Tygerberg, the Rooikruis hospital and Groote Schuur are still open, but are not necessarily operating at full staff strength.
“Some hospitals and clinics have less staff because many of them have gone away for the long weekend and cannot return due to the damage,” he says.
The Groendal clinic in Franschhoek and several others such as the De Doorns clinic and the Touwsrivier clinic had to close because the roads to the clinics were badly damaged.
“Some health facilities use generators to keep the lights on,” he says.
Nearly 20,000 people in Cape Town are still without power after the floods damaged the power infrastructure.
This while around a thousand families – which could be anything between 3,000 and 5,000 people – have been displaced in the metro, and almost 600 people are still homeless in the Cape Wineland.
The provincial government is working with humanitarian organizations such as the South African Red Cross to assist these people.
Anton Bredell, the Western Cape MEC for local government, environmental affairs and spatial planning, did not want to elaborate on the number of deaths in the province “because all the relatives of the deceased have not yet been notified”.
According to Bredell, there are indeed eight deaths in the subway and four more rescue efforts underway, which may increase the death toll.
RNews reported earlier that four children and four adults died in Cape Town.