Rains in drought-hit Cape Town cause minor flooding

In South Africa, floods often follow droughts. (Reuters pic)

CAPE TOWN: Heavy rain over the last 24 hours has blocked roads and disrupted traffic in South Africa’s drought-hit Cape Town, city officials said on Thursday.

The first winter downpour will slightly replenish dams dried by the region’s worst drought in a century, a dry spell that has scorched farms and hit the tourism sector.

South Africa has declared a national disaster over the drought affecting the country’s south and west. The areas affected had two of the driest years ever recorded in 2015 and 2016.

Cape Town authorities warned that taps in the port city of 4 million could run dry this year, but they have pushed back this worst-case scenario to next year, and even then, only if winter rains fail to sufficiently boost dam levels.

“There has been a lot of flooding in urban areas across the metro, and a lot of roadways have been affected,” said Charlotte Powell, spokeswoman for Cape Town’s disaster management center.

“Flooding is a known risk to the city,” Powell said.

However, no emergency shelters or evacuations were necessary, she said of a perennial challenge when heavy rains during winter affects thousands who live in shanty towns.

The South African Weather Service said around 34 millimetres of rain fell at Cape Town International Airport from 8am local time on Wednesday to 8am local time on Thursday due to a severe weather front.

Forecaster Thabisile Ntleko said a few showers were expected later on Thursday before clearing ahead of a weak cold front on Friday evening and more rain.

“That will go into Saturday morning before clearing. We don’t see too much rain,” she said adding that up to 5 millimetres was expected.

The city is encouraging its residents to continue saving water amid drought restrictions that limits daily consumption per person to 50 litres a day.