S.Africa west coast storm kills 8, causes chaos

AFP , Wednesday 7 Jun 2017

A ferocious storm killed eight people as it pummelled South Africa's west coast on Wednesday, forcing the closure of Cape Town harbour, triggering flash floods and causing extensive damage, authorities said.

The weather system which struck on Tuesday has damaged buildings, felled trees, left 46,000 homes without electricity and caused travel chaos as flights and rail services were hit by gale-force winds and flooding.

Three people were killed in the Eden District municipality, an area popular with tourists east of Cape Town, while four others died in a fire sparked by lightning, said James Brent-Styan, spokesman for the Western Cape regional government.

One other person was killed when a building collapsed.

The South African Weather Service warned that strong gale force winds were expected over the Western Cape and western parts of the Northern Cape region until Thursday. Waves of up to 12 metres high are expected to lash the Cape peninsula until Friday.

"Heavy rain and flash flooding are expected (across) the western parts of the Western Cape... on Wednesday into Thursday morning," the weather service added.

The severe weather, dubbed "the cape storm" and thought to be one of the worst for 30 years, has left dozens of people in shantytowns around Cape Town homeless -- as well as forcing schools and universities to close.

The Khayelitsha township, a vast encampment of tightly-packed shacks just outside Cape Town, was reported to be totally deserted except for a handful of children and suffered severe flooding. Elsewhere in the region high winds fanned forest fires, causing damage to homes and property.

The extreme weather follows one of the worst droughts for 100 years that has gripped the region and led to crippling water shortages.

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