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We lost everything

Posted : 29 November 2012



FURTHER flood devastation was revealed this week as some Port Alfred residents were finally able to enter homes that had been covered in water for a month.


TotT visited residents of Medolino Caravan Park as they salvaged what they could from their ruined park homes on Monday.


The job was made doubly hazardous due to the weakened structure of the houses and the mud contaminated by sewage that covers the entire park and the inside of homes. The stench is overpowering.

PICKING UP THE PIECES: Bob Robertson, a resident of Medolino Caravan Park, salvages his prized Venetian glass and crystal collection from his ruined home. He is relocating to Johannesburg Picture: JON HOUZET

In living rooms and bedrooms, furniture, clothing and other possessions lay tossed about and covered in slime, while in one incongruous scene waterlogged magazines still lay neatly stacked on a coffee table.


Pensioners Elize and Matthew Paul were not insured and lost not only their possessions but their means of a livelihood.


Elize, 60, used to sell baked goods for a living, Equipment worth R75 000, including an industrial mixer, has been destroyed.


She listed the other possessions lost: all her ingredients, her oven, deep freeze, washing machine, paintings, sewing machine, clothing and her husband’s tools – the 67-year-old made a living as a handyman.


“All the possessions that we work for all our life,” said Elize.


She said the speed of the rising flood took them by surprise and they fled with what they could.


“It was at night and it happened so fast. When we saw the water it was unbelievable – it was so high,” she said. “We took our toothbrushes, chronic medication, some cat food – that’s all.”


NSRI volunteers evacuated them along with other residents of Medolino.


The Port Alfred Baptist Church and neighbours provided the Pauls with clothing and they have been staying with friends.


“But come month-end we have to move, and our house is not habitable anymore,” said Matthew.


Bob Robertson, 78, got out of the park with just the clothes he was wearing, and his car.


“If I stayed another five minutes I wouldn’t have got the car out,” he said.


Robertson said he had since gone to Johannesburg to live with his daughter, Lynne, and had just returned on Monday to salvage a few items of value, like his Venetian glass collection, crystal and silverware.


He wanted to see if the hard drive on his PC was recoverable as “it’s my life”.


“Every piece of paper I accumulated in my life, photo albums, wedding pictures – they’re gone,” he said.


He said he had pleasant memories of living at Medolino for the past 12 years, including with his wife before she died six years ago, but he was giving up on Port Alfred.


“I’m f***ing off and going to live in Johannesburg – and I hate Johannesburg,” he said. “I’ve survived floods before. This is the third one, and the last one. We have a dysfunctional municipality and no disaster management plan.”


Medolino owner Derek Victor called in an environmental microbiology expert from Rhodes University to take samples to test for ecoli, typhoid and cholera in the water and mud, and in scrapings from walls.


“I expect the results next week,” said Victor.


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