Climate change blamed as  record rains flood Western Cape

Climate change intensified the torrential rain and flooding that has swept the Western Cape over the past two days, claiming at least 11 lives and forcing the evacuation of about 1 000 low-lying homes, the region’s top officials said.

The rains, which came just a week after larger-than-normal spring tides and earlier deluges, closed major routes into Cape Town, a coastal city of four million people, and damaged wheat crops, bridges and other infrastructure.

“The heavy rains are an indication of climate change, and while our early warning and mitigations systems did work, we have to keep investing,” Anton Bredell, the Western Cape’s provincial minister for local government and development planning, said Tuesday.

“We will be having some very serious budget conversations going forward. Our climate strategy is working but it needs to step up,” added Bredell.

Eight of the 11 people who died were electrocuted in shacks in informal settlements when waters swamped illegal connections to the power lines. The flooding caused the closure of 84 roads.

“I don’t know if you could actually invest for a flood like this. It requires long-term planning. 

“We have to make sure those plans start rolling out into the future,” said Alan Winde, the Western Cape’s premier. “This is probably a one-in-100-year flood once we work out how much water flowed through.”

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis signed a major incident declaration, which allows for the unlocking of additional resources and relief measures to deal with impact of the floods, the city said in a statement on Tuesday.

In the small town of Elim, nearly 130 mm fell over 24 hours, quadrupling a 12-year record for September of 36 mm that fell around this time last year. Jonkershoek had 134 mm of rain, breaking a 1976 record of 85 mm for rain in September, which itself was the most in at least 64 years.

At two weather stations in Cape Town the rain was the highest for a day in September in at least 22 years, according to the Weather Service

The rain, which affected the Western Cape and parts of the neighboring Eastern Cape, was caused by a low-pressure weather system that causes heavy rain and isn’t unusual for this time of year.

The system prompted the South African Weather Service to issue a so-called Orange Level 9 Warnings for parts of the Western Cape for Sunday through Monday, forecasting “rapid heavy downpours, excessive lightning, strong downdraft as well as large amounts of small hail.”

That’s the highest level warning ever issued for the Western Cape -Bloomberg

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