We lost everything – Mamelodi residents displaced by floods

A flooded area in Eerste Fabriek informal settlement after recent floods can be seen pictured, 10 December 2019, Mamelodi. Picture: Alet Pretorius

Residents living near the river had previously been warned to evacuate the area to avoid putting their lives at risk, but they said they had nowhere else to go.

With her toddler on her back and a luggage bag on her head, a Mamelodi resident was forced to wade through Pretoria’s floods, while watching her home and most of her possessions being swept away by the turbulent water.

Margaret Ngobeni was one of over 500 people who were displaced when flash floods surged through the Eerste Fabriek informal settlement in Mamelodi during Monday’s heavy downpour.

The mother of three, who lived on the river bank, said she quickly packed all her valuables when she noticed the river rising.

Speaking at the Mamelodi Baptist Church, one of the emergency shelters for the displaced, she said she had to make a quick escape with her children.

“When I saw the water rising, I packed a bag with clothes and took the children’s [birth] certificates. But by the time we were ready to make our escape, the water had entered the house and was up to my waist,” she said.

“My children and I were scared but we had to get in the water. One took my handbag, the other had the bigger bag on their head and I carried the small child on my back and another bag on my head. We made our way through the water to the train tracks for safety. I waited there and watched my shack being washed away. We have lost everything – clothes, beds, food, blankets, even the Christmas clothes I recently bought for my children.”

Residents living near the river had previously been warned to evacuate the area to avoid putting their lives at risk. But Ngobeni said she had nowhere else to go.

“I lived there because I had no choice. Right now, I don’t know where I am going to go. I don’t have another plan,” she said.

The already packed church continued to receive an influx of destitute people who were seeking warmth, food and clothing.

Concerned residents and organisations dropped off food and blankets and clothing donations throughout the day.

Tshwane medical assistance was on standby while #NotInMyName organisation arranged for a soup kitchen.

Thandeka Hlongwa, 26, was distraught to see her only home vanish. “I was at work and received a call that my home was flooded. When I arrived, I couldn’t even get to my house. I stood by the bridge and watched it wash away. This is the only home we have.”

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, along with Gauteng Cogta MEC Lebogang Maile, visited some of those affected to provide aid.

Meanwhile, one body was found washed up in Centurion yesterday morning. “We will continue to monitor the situation,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

She said another person was electrocuted in Soshanguve, but it was not yet clear if it was a result of the wet weather.

rorisangk@citizen.co.za

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