IT COULD take some farmers in Nieu Bethesda a decade to get back to where they were before the flood that hit them Saturday. That’s the word from the mountainous catchment area north of Graaff-Reinet, where well over 100mm of rain fell in 24 hours, flooding the Gats River and all its tributaries, flattening stock fences, stripping roads to bedrock and bursting farm dams.
One farmer, Peet van Heerden, said yesterday the ferocity of the storm seemed to be over for now.
“All the rivers are down, and the sun is shining. But the hard work starts now.
“The floods washed away dams, furrows, weirs and causeways and every bit of top soil on our roads.
“The debris that came down with the floods smashed down our fences and our animals are now everywhere.”
All stock must be branded by law, and farmers know anyway which animals belong to who, he explained.
“But just finding them is going to be difficult – and then we need to be able to bring them back. To do that, we’re first going to have to fix up our roads, to allow us to move around on our farms.”
Nieu Bethesda farmers run sheep and cattle and grow lucern. Rain is a necessity, and drought had been taking its toll, he agreed.
“We did need the rain – but not like this. It was like using a dump truck to water a hankerchief size vege garden.”
He said it was hard to estimate damage costs in the whole Nieu Bethesday farming community but he alone would need to spend about R500000 to fix his dam.
“And other guys got hit much worse than me with damage to their infrastructure.”
But the good news is it could have been much worse, he said.
“Farming practice have improved dramatically in the past 30 years in terms of conserving soil and reducing run-off – so much so, this is one reason why our dam levels are lower.
“The flood damage could have been much worse if we were not employing these soil conservation practices.”
In Graaff-Reinet, meanwhile, Camdeboo Municipality disaster management chief Christopher Roode said yesterday the Cqwebe Dam had dropped to 108% full from 116% full on Sunday morning, and the level of both the Gats and Sundays rivers was likewise down.
There is no longer a need for the flood gates to be kept open and the force of the excess water going over the northern spill section of the dam is dropping.
Rhoode and his team are carefully monitoring the situation but if it rains heavily in the Gats catchment in Nieu Bethesda, an emergency team will immedaiately move to operational gear, he said.
“We know from experience we have three hours to get into position before the water moves down through the system into the dam.
“Our team will be ready to handle any emergencies including the possible evacuation of old age homes and school hostels.”
At the weekend, the flood destroyed the fence around the Tronkdrif Pump Station on the municipal sewerage line, but there was no other serious damages reported, he said.
Graaff-Reinet tourism office official Sandi Will said yesterday locals were queuing up to photograph the magnificent sight of the Cqwebe Dam over-flowing, and rain was the subject of choice in every coffee shop and pub.