South Africa: Day Zero pushed back to June

Welcome rains arrive in the Western Cape, but flash floods leave nine people dead.

South Africa: Day Zero pushed back to June
No further rain is expected in the foreseeable future [AFP]

Cape Town’s water crisis continues unabated despite some very welcome recent rainfall. The area has been suffering from a drought since 2015, said to be the worst in 100 years.

Following on from yet another unseasonably dry winter, average dam levels are currently hovering around a quarter full.

The countdown to what has become known as Day Zero is well under way. This is the day that the reservoir levels drop below 13.5 percent and the city must turn off all taps.

Initial estimates had put that date at some time in April and then into May. On Tuesday, the city of Cape Town announced that this date has now been pushed back to June 4.

The respite is thanks in part to some much-needed rain and also to contributions from the Western Cape farmers who have reduced their water usage from the municipal supply from 30 percent to 10 percent. They also donated 10 billion litres of water last week, which has the potential to last up to 20 days.

Recent days have also seen some much needed rainfall, not enough to break the drought, but welcome nevertheless. In the event, Cape Town had 5mm of rain on Tuesday afternoon.

This followed 7mm the day before. The February average is 17mm. There were reports of as much as 20mm of rain falling in the surrounding area in a 10-minute spell.

As is often the case, such heavy rainfall in a short period after a long dry spell led to some flooding. At least nine people were killed in two separate road accidents.

Five people were killed near Villiersdorp early on Wednesday morning. Western Cape traffic chief Kenny Africa said: “A driver and four of his passengers were washed away due to flooding. The five occupants jumped out of their vehicle, and the water washed them away. All five drowned.”

The other incident took place in the Montagu area; another car was hit by a wall of water, killing all four passengers.

No further rain is expected in the foreseeable future. However, if they can keep Day Zero to that date in June, they will have made it to the start of the winter rains. There can be some hope that the taps will not run dry.

Source: Al Jazeera