Following severe weather alerts by the SA Weather Service, on Friday, 15th November, NSRI were placed on high alert to assist if necessary during the predicted two days of severe weather on Friday and Saturday.
At 21h31 (Friday, 15th November) NSRI Gordons Bay crew were activated to assist WC Government Health EMS, Cape Town City Disaster Risk Management and the Emergency Services who had initiated an evacuation of the Vergelegen MediClinic in Somerset West after the Lourensford River burst its banks causing flooding to the hospital.
WC Government Health EMS set up a Joint Operations Control Centre (JOCC) near to the Vergelegen MediClinic, and Doctor Wayne Smith commanded the operation. NSRI Gordons Bay volunteers were dispatched from the JOCC to assist the emergency services in the evacuation of patients, from critical conditions to minor conditions.
Edward Roussouw, NSRI Gordons Bay duty controller, said that as the gravity of the situation increased NSRI Simons Town, NSRI Strandfontein, NSRI Melkbosstrand and NSRI Headquarters were activated to respond additional resources and man power including 4×4 sea rescue vehicles and Rescue Runners (Jet-Ski’s) to bolster the emergency services wet weather rescue capabilities.
During the evacuation of patients and staff from the MediClinic hospital, an NSRI team were also diverted to respond to the vicinity of the Hottentots Holland High School where we evacuated 9 people from flooded homes. All 9 people were found sheltering on the rooves of their houses, and they were brought safely to higher ground without incident.
Mark Hughes, NSRI Operations Director, said that as Saturday morning rolled in, with rain not letting up and flood conditions worsening, NSRI 4×4 sea rescue vehicles were being deployed along with rescue vehicles of EMS, Fire and Rescue and the 4×4 Club, by the JOCC, to escort ambulances that were negotiating flooded streets to ferry patients from the MediClinic.
In total 29 NSRI volunteers, from 4 sea rescue stations were deployed to assist the emergency services in this major relief operation. Four 4×4 sea rescue vehicles and 3 NSRI rescue runners were dispatched to bloster the emergency services resources.
By 02h30 (Saturday, 16th November) NSRI were continuing to assist EMS to escort ambulances and to assist EMS in the evacuation of the last numbers of staff members from Vergelegen MediClinic.
During the operation NSRI have witnessed major flooding of residential and business areas of the Somerset West area and flooding of roads with some areas where even street stop signs were buried under water. Multiple incidents, related to the severe weather, were attended to by the emergency services during the night.
Disaster Risk Management are continuing in the sheltering of flood affected victims, restoring electricity supplies, drainage of water systems, assessments of damaged buildings and the removal of fallen trees, road mud slides and the continuing evacuation and sheltering and feeding of flood affected victims and the WC Government Health EMS are continuing in the treatment and well being (and inter hospital movements) of patients affected by the MediClinic evacuation and flood related incidents (including related motor vehicle accidents) caused by the flooding.
Numerous organizations were mobilized to assist in this operation including – WC Government Health EMS, Cape Town City Disaster Risk Management, SA Police Services, Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services, Law Enforcement, Metro Police, Road Works, Electricity Department, City Cleansing Department, ER24 ambulance services, Netcare 911 ambulance services, The SPCA, Gordons Bay Security, ORM private ambulance services, WSAR (Wilderness Search and Rescue), The 4×4 Club, residents and business owners from Somerset West who volunteered 4×4 vehicles and tools and equipment and NSRI crew from Gordons Bay, Strandfontein, Simons Town and Melkbosstrand.
By 04h00 the emergency response teams mostly withdrew as the situation stabilized and as a precautionary measure NSRI were dispatched to investigate people reportedly trapped by flood water, in houses in Vergelegen, finding people in their homes in knee deep water but with no lives in danger and all residents, namely at 4 houses in that area that were adversely affected by flood water, happy to stay home to begin mopping up.
By 04h50, NSRI were released from the operation to return to base and to return to stand-by status.
NSRI remain on high alert around the Western and Southern Cape to assist the emergency services in affected areas as the severe weather front moves East.
Severe weather, rough seas and high winds are predicted by the SA Weather Service over the next 24 hours for the Western and Southern Cape coastal regions and we caution boaters and paddlers not to go to sea unless it is absolutely necessary, for as long as the rough sea conditions are forecast, and if you are at sea to wear your life jacket at all times, have safety equipment handy and exercise extreme caution.
The approaching full moon Spring Tide is also now in effect, coupled with the rough sea conditions this means extremely strong rip currents and rough, high seas will be experienced over the coming days and shoreline anglers and bathers are also urged to exercise extreme caution, along with the boaters and paddlers, around the coast.