Fears of massive disaster if Vaal bursts its banks

Johannesburg – There are concerns that the Vaal Dam could burst its banks, leading to a massive disaster for communities living close to the dam and river bank.

Torrential rains that have gripped the country over the past few weeks have led to an overfull Vaal Dam. The Star understands that the dam can contain an overflow of up to 115%. The dam is 120% full.

The Department of Water and Sanitation announced that 12 floodgates had been opened to relieve the Vaal Dam.

Some community leaders in the Vaal say this could be too late.

Cindy Niblett, a community leader and member of the Vereeniging Business Corporation, said some of the floodgates had not been opened because they had not been maintained and were broken.

Niblett, whose house is also along the river bank, said she had not seen such a large amount of flooding in the Vaal since 1975.

“There are about 60 floodgates, and they only opened 12; that dam cannot contain the amount of water that is there. We cannot control the rain, but they should have acted earlier because if that wall cracks and breaks, Gauteng will have a water problem, and it will be a disaster for people in the Vaal Triangle,” she said.

By Sunday, many residents living near the banks of the Vaal River were being evacuated as the water began to submerge their homes.

Many of those affected are being housed in community centres while others are trying to salvage what they can from their flooded homes.

“The situation is bad. For those that have money and insurance, they can always bounce back, but for those who have nothing and are trying to survive, it’s tough.”

Niblett said the entire disaster could have been avoided if the floodgates at the barrage were properly controlled.

She and other community members had been warning people across the Vanderbijlpark area about flooded roads, and redirecting cars.

“Had we not stepped in as community leaders to ensure that people are safe, we could have lost a lot of lives? This area needs to be declared a disaster area,” she said.

The Star understands that some towns in the Northern Cape experienced flooding after the Bloemhof Dam floodgates and Vaal floodgates were opened to relieve pressure on the dam.

But Water and Sanitation spokesperson Wisane Mavasa said municipalities had been engaged on the possibility of floods occurring along the banks of the Vaal and Orange rivers.

“The floodgates at the Vaal Dam remain open. The weather indicates that the rain will calm down a bit, but we will continue to assess the situation. As a department, we continue to warn people residing on the banks to evacuate. The gates continue to be open, and they could still be open for a while. The water flows to the Northern Cape, and it will then meet the Orange River,“ she said.

The Emfuleni Municipality was expected to get back to The Star with a comment on the matter. But there was no response at the time of publication.

The Star