South Africa: Cape Town schools closed, 15,000 affected by heavy rains

The Western Cape Government (WCG) continues to provide shelter, food and blankets to the homeless as the province faces heavy rains, leading to the closure of many schools.

The province announced that schools in the Cape Metropolitan District, Cape Winelands and Overberg Districts and parts of the West Coast District have closed today.

“In the interest of the safety of students and teachers, and after extensive consultation with the Provincial Disaster Risk Management Centre and the South African Weather Service (SAWS), a decision has been taken to close schools in some districts in the Western Cape (on Thursday),” Western Cape MEC for Education David Maynier said on Wednesday.

According to the MEC, all other schools in the remaining districts will be open, unless permission to close has been granted.

“Our default position is still to keep schools open, but we are aware of the seriousness of the warnings in place and the damage already caused in some areas.

“So far, 20 schools have been granted permission to close across the province, the majority of which are in the Cape Winelands district,” the MEC explained.

In the past few days, 137 schools have reported damage to infrastructure, caused by flooding or strong winds. Most cases are minor, but 49 require urgent attention.

Level 8 Warning

Meanwhile, a level 8 warning has been issued by SAWS for disruptive rainfall.

This warning remains in effect for heavy rain, flooding and mudslides, particularly in the Cape Metropolitan Area, as well as the Drakenstein and Stellenbosch regions.

The province also expects strong winds to persist over inland areas and along the coastal areas of Saldanha Bay and Cape Agulhas over the next few days.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, the PDMC and other stakeholders are monitoring the series of cold fronts very closely.

“Virtually all WCG departments are working together to mitigate the possible impact of this weather system.

“All stakeholders will remain vigilant and I urge the public to do the same. Disaster management teams are working tirelessly to protect the public from harm. We are very grateful to them.”

The WCG said it has worked closely with all affected municipalities, national departments as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), who have worked tirelessly to protect lives and assist residents in need during the current floods.

Chief Disaster Management Officer Colin Deiner said the centre will continue to monitor the situation closely over the coming days.

He stressed that a critical aspect of the overall response is to ensure that all disaster management officials and organisations have adequate resources to continue the good work they have done.

Humanitarian support

Meanwhile, around 4,000 structures have been damaged in Cape Town, affecting 15,000 people.

“With the help of NGOs, 11,000 hot meals are being distributed every day throughout the Cape Town metropolitan area to people affected by the bad weather.”

The Western Cape Department of Social Development is coordinating humanitarian relief efforts for affected communities with partner NGOs including the Gift of the Givers Foundation, the Warehouse Foundation, Ashraful Aid, Al-Imdaad Foundation, Islamic Relief SA and the Community Chest of the Western Cape.

In addition, many rivers are reaching saturation levels and runoff could increase exponentially. This situation is being closely monitored by the Ministry of Water and Sanitation.