Deadly flash floods in fire season… Red Cross deploys to aid victims of humanitarian disaster

The relentless rain of the long weekend has left death and destruction in its wake. The Western Cape Provincial Manager of the South African Red Cross, Fernel Campher, tells BizNews about the “devastating impact of the floods” on human lives. He says some residents ended up in “waist-deep waters where they used to live”, while “the first thing a lot of people did was “grab the families and run out of the houses”. Others have been left with “no access to their families or way through to get home”.  The Red Cross is fully deployed in the province – and has been busy providing hot blankets and hot meals to those in urgent need of aid, but appeals for donations of non-perishable items, clothing, blankets, drinkable water, vanity packs and baby packs as more victims are coming forward for aid. Campher warns the road to recovery is going to be a long one, but says the Red Cross will be providing psychological counselling to those left in shock by the impact of the disaster.Chris Steyn

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:09 – Introductions
  • 00:35 – Fernel Campher on how bad the impact of the past weekend’s storms have been
  • 03:09 – which area has been the worst affected
  • 03:52 – The areas that are accessible at the moment
  • 04:34 – How many deaths as a result of the storms
  • 04:57 – what kind of help are people asking for
  • 06:24 – On where can people drop off items to help
  • 07:11 – Is this the worst storm damage in humanitarian terms that you have encountered
  • 08:11 – Prepared for fire not flood
  • 09:31 – On the team and how many people are on the ground
  • 11:29 – How long will it take for things to normalise
  • 13:39 – Conclusions

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Highlights from the interview

The relentless rain of the long weekend has left death and destruction in its wake.

The Western Cape Provincial Manager of the South African Red Cross, Fernel Campher, tells BizNews about the “devastating impact of the floods” on human lives.

He says some residents ended up in “waist-deep waters where they used to live”, while “the first thing a lot of people did was “grab the families and run out of the houses”. Others have been left with “no access to their families or way through to get home”.

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“The damage is severe. It’s really, really intense…,” Campher says.

He adds that the torrential rains in the Western Cape’s fire season was unexpected. “I think the timing is what caught us off guard…We’ve not prepared for the actual impact of a flash flood in September, which is  Spring time. 

“And there’s a lot of scientific attribution for that, and it is a lot of contributing factors, but for us, what we prepared for is fires. To see the floods, the flash floods, in this regard and the impact thereof, it’s for us unprecedented actually.”

The South African Red Cross is fully deployed in the province – and has been busy providing hot blankets and hot meals to those in urgent need of aid.

However, as more victims are coming forward for aid, it appeals for donations from the public.

 …the need is still great…a lot of people are calling in for help. People are saying our places are flooded, can you give us some support? So we are going to…make another appeal…the current need right now is non-perishable items, clothing, warm clothing, blankets, water, drinkable water, vanity packs and baby packs. Any form of baby material which is nappies, wet wipes, formula, closed and usable.”

Read more: Worst Storm Surge in 20 years leaves SA’s coastal towns battered…

Campher warns that the road to recovery is likely to be a long one. “…after those three days we will go back and we work on the recovery process…normally we walk a journey for about a month. Bear in mind that when the impact, the shock happened, the first thing that a lot of families did was grab the families and ran out of the houses. And this all has psychological impact. 

“So the first way for the Red Cross is to respond with immediate relief and relief items. Second is to look at what it is that we can do with regards to recovery. The third thing that we do is to see how we harness the resilience to make sure that when something like this does happen again that the community themselves are able to recover quicker and in a shorter amount of time period. 

“The fourth…is psycho-social support. We give counselling to the affected people that are in shock because the minute you are in the process, the adrenaline is there but when things settle down that’s when the psychosocial support is required. So after this phase we go in with psycho-social support training and then we provide counselling…to people that are affected both by the impact and also by the shock.

“This is the process that we do, so it’s a long-winded process, but it ensures that when a shock like this or impact like this does happen again, the recovery time is shortened because of the resilience or the ability to either bounce back quicker.”

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