Unprecedented rainstorms have wreaked havoc across the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, particularly devastating the Garden Route region, from June 1 to June 6, 2024. The deluge has resulted in severe flooding, infrastructure damage, and widespread disruption to daily life, prompting urgent responses from emergency services and local authorities.

Unrelenting Rainfall and Widespread Flooding

The South African Weather Service reported that the Garden Route, including towns such as Knysna, George, and Plettenberg Bay, experienced record-breaking rainfall over the six-day period. Some areas received more than 300mm of rain, far surpassing the monthly average for June. Rivers swelled rapidly, inundating homes, businesses, and farmlands, and cutting off major roads and transportation routes.

Human Impact and Evacuations

The heavy rains have forced thousands of residents to evacuate their homes, seeking refuge in community centers and makeshift shelters. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been deployed to assist in rescue operations, using helicopters and boats to reach stranded individuals. Despite these efforts, at least 12 people have been reported missing, and four fatalities have been confirmed. Local resident Maria van der Merwe described the chaos: “We’ve never seen anything like this. The water rose so quickly, we barely had time to grab our belongings. It’s heartbreaking to see our community like this.”


Infrastructure and Agricultural Damage

The storms have inflicted severe damage on infrastructure. Numerous roads and bridges have been washed away, complicating rescue and relief efforts. Electricity and water supplies have been disrupted in several towns, with utility companies working around the clock to restore services.

Agriculture, a vital sector in the region, has also been hard-hit. Many farms have been submerged, destroying crops and livestock. The agricultural community faces significant losses, and there are growing concerns about food security and economic impacts in the coming months.

Government and Community Response

Local governments in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape have declared states of emergency, unlocking additional resources for disaster relief and recovery. Premier Alan Winde of the Western Cape assured residents that the provincial government is fully mobilized to support affected communities. “Our priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of our citizens. We are working closely with national authorities, NGOs, and community organizations to provide immediate assistance and plan for long-term recovery,” Winde stated.

Calls for Climate Resilience

The unprecedented nature of these storms has reignited discussions about climate change and the need for resilient infrastructure. Experts warn that such extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent and severe due to global warming. Environmental groups are calling for increased investment in sustainable infrastructure and improved disaster preparedness.

Dr. Teboho Mokoena, a climatologist at the University of Cape Town, emphasized the urgency: “This event underscores the critical need for climate resilience. We must adapt our urban planning, agriculture, and emergency response systems to better cope with these realities.”

Moving Forward

As the rain subsides and waters begin to recede, the focus shifts to recovery and rebuilding. The road ahead will show the resilience and solidarity of the communities.  Volunteers, local businesses, and organizations are joining forces to support the recovery efforts.

For now, the Eastern and Western Cape face the future with hope that will not be doused. With a weather prediction showing a lot of sun shine over the next 7 days, this task might be easier that we think right now.