Remembering the 1968 flood

Continued from page 1

Experts claim that this was a flood with a return value of more than 100 if not 1 000 years (i.e. would only occur once in 100 if not 1000 years).

By the end of the day, the airport had recorded 429mm and the Adcockvale Reservoir 552mm.

Experts claim that approximately 26 000 megalitres of water was deposited over the city. That equates to almost the entire Churchill Dam (33 000 megalitres) being poured over the city in four hours.

The consequences

At the time it was reported that damage was estimated to be in the region of R40 million. A projection of the rand value in 1993 (25th anniversary of the event) was put at R604 million. A 2018 projection of the rand value is in excess of R5 billion.

It was amazing, considering that so much rain had fallen, that only nine people were reported to have died as a direct result of the flood (some reports claim the total was 11). Eight drowned and one was electrocuted, while trying to repair a roof leak of a house in Central.

The Provincial Hospital reported treating 55 casualty patients.

Streets were flooded beyond belief, with photos showing only the top half of double decker buses visible in Main Street (now Govan Mbeki Avenue) in North End and Sydenham.

Although damage of varying degrees was reported all over the city, extensive damage was caused to Albany Road, Brickmakers Kloof, Target Kloof and all areas in the Baakens Valley area. The most visible and memorable images were of the promenade, which was damaged beyond repair and sadly changed the face of the city’s beachfront forever.

This occurred when storm water flowed into the Shark River (the little stream in Happy Valley) and turned it into a raging torrent. This washed away the rugby fields at the Boet Erasmus Stadium.

This together with other debris dammed up at the bridge over the Shark River. The bridge and surrounds were all washed away and/or severely damaged. Gone forever from the face of Port Elizabeth were the bathing houses, the ice-cream parlour and restaurant.

Interesting antidotes

A resident related that on the Saturday night she had made a large pot of curry. When she awoke, the curry pot was floating past her bed, as her house was flooded to bed level.

Forest Hill Drive had a 10m wide section missing and part of the cemetery washed away.

Many fish (some as heavy as 3kg) were washed out of the North End Lake and were caught by hand in Main Street. Goldfish from the pond in St George’s were washed away and landed up in a pool under the Crusaders Rugby Club Pavilion.

Twins were born in an ambulance that was bogged down, when part of Standford Road collapsed.

A family had to wait two weeks to bury their mother, as the North End Cemetery remained water logged.

Even the Weather Office was affected, with a complete breakdown of communications at the Port Elizabeth Airport. All electronic equipment was affected which resulted in no upper-air ascent for the day.