Mpumalanga Premier, Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane visited areas affected by the recent heavy rains and flooding in the province today. Mtsweni-Tsipane was accompanied by an entourage of MECs, executive mayors and senior officials, these include MEC for COGTA; Mr Mandla Msibi, the mayor of Ehlanzeni District Municipality, Councillor Jaster Sidell; the mayor of City of Mbombel, Councillor Sipho Mathonsi and other senior officials.
At least eight people drowned in rivers, dams and water streams in the province, while five people including a 13-year-old boy are still missing. Tropical storm Eloise, accompanied by heavy rain, left a trail of destruction in the infrastructure, including housing structures. In some instances, motorists had to be diverted to alternative roads due to severe damages, whilst some families were left homeless.
The premier said KwaNyamazane in the Mbombela Local Municipality, is one of the areas which were mostly affected by the recent floods. She said it is not the only place affected as the bridges have collapsed and roads have been eroded and have also sank in other areas as a result of the floods. Mtsweni-Tsipane said the provincial government has already done the assessment and has visited almost all the affected areas but it is still going ahead in a quest to make sure that all heavily affected areas are included in a programme that has been put up to repair, replace, refurbish and reconstruct them.
She because the damage is very huge in some of the areas, it calls for a complete reconstruction and needs extra effort and extra resources that the provincial government might not have at its disposal. According to the premier, the provincial government has already declared the areas as disaster-stricken areas. She said the national government will come to the fore, but the provincial government can’t wait for the national government because people still need to commute to work, children need to go to school, houses need to be repaired and rebuild, so they can be re-occupied, and these are the things that the government has catogorised as critical.
“As provincial government, what we would do, we would have to go back and re-work our budget such that we start rolling out the programme of fixing the infrastructure there. Up to this date we have quantified the damage and of course the national government still has to come and do the assessment on their own as well, the damage that we have quantified thus far amounts to R425 but the estimation is still going on, this means that we will work on the estimation calculated so far, to start fixing as a matter of urgency,” said the premier.
“We have tried to intervene, our TLB’s were sinking because the soil is not solid, it’s still muddy. It is very difficult to work under these circumstances because any given time it starts raining. We are trying, and I’m happy with the time frame in which we are responding to this disaster, our turnaround time in the main is about 15 minutes, so we get into that space, we assist those families, we relocate them to the respective areas, where they can be safe,” she said.
Mtsweni-Tsipane said she would like to send condolences to all the families that were affected by the storm, She urged the public not to push forward when it is raining heavily, saying they must try to get to the nearest houses, ask to be accommodated and wait there until the water level drops. She said the rescue teams are working overnight to ensure that the missing bodies are recovered so they can be buried properly. She also added that the provincial government will do everything in its power to restore everything so people can still travel back to their homes and respective areas.
The spokesperson for the Mpumalanga Cooperative Governance, George Mthethwa said there are 70 houses that were severely damaged in Mkhuhlu and then in 30 inAcornhoek. He said both the department, working with the local municipality, as well as the Ehlanzeni District, will provide temporary shelter for the affected families to make sure they are provided with food, mattresses and blankets.