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Mop-up operations have started on the beachfront to clear debris and sand washed up by Sunday’s tidal waves. (Photo Credit: Sibusiso Ndlovu)
Thembinkosi Ngcobo, head of the eThekwini Parks, Recreation and Culture Department, said: “From our assessment, the cleaning operation should take about three days or so and that is just to remove sand from the promenade and parking areas, depending on whether we get all the machinery we need.
“But to clean everything and reverse the damage to infrastructure, we have an estimate of at least two weeks.”
He said the damage needed to be thoroughly assessed to come up with an exact monetary figure. But it could run into millions of rands, said city officials.
Beaches in the north, central and south areas of the city, including Battery Beach, Country Club Beach and eThekwini Beach, were all closed until further notice, Ngcobo said.
Among the infrastructure damaged were concrete slabs designed to prevent water and sand from flowing on to the promenade which were displaced by the sheer force of the waves, as well as promenade pavement bricks, dustbins and windows of the lifeguards’ control tower.
“We still need to do an assessment on the electrical and water pipes to determine the extent of the damage,” Ngcobo said.
He said the public was allowed on the promenade.
“However, if the public’s presence makes it impossible to clean the promenade, they will be barred.”
Ngcobo said a decision on that would be made by today.
He warned people, including bathers, those walking on the promenade and even surfers to heed their calls to vacate the beach and promenade when announcements were made that danger was looming, instead of taking pictures and videos to post on social media.
Bongi Sithole-Moloi, acting MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, said they had taken stock of the damage and deployed an additional team to speedily restore normality to the beachfront.
“We are grateful that the worst is over. However, we will continue to monitor the situation and we urge communities to heed the advice that at this point they must not visit the beaches until we say it is safe to do so,” Sithole-Moloi said.
Despite the city’s call to the public and surfers to steer clear of the beach, one surfer, Ree Saunders of Jeffreys Bay, nonchalantly surfed the waves and said he was unaware of the city’s message.
“I don’t see the devastation, I just saw the surf because, as a surfer, you wait a long time for waves like this. And if there are waves, you’ve got to surf them,” Saunders said.
The promenade was a hive of activity on Monday as the public made their way to the beachfront to see the damage for themselves.
A Shallcross couple, Anesh and Sangeetha Singh, said they regularly walked on the promenade
“We came here today to see the devastation. We thank God there were no fatalities,” Anesh said.
The Singhs said they would continue their regular visits to the beachfront, where they enjoyed leisure walks while their son cycled on the promenade.
Sadha Naidoo, the owner of California Dreaming restaurant on the beachfront, said business at his restaurant had not been interrupted by the tidal waves and the restaurant was open to patrons on Sunday and Monday.
“The only threat to business would have been patrons staying away from the beachfront because of the tidal waves, but we still had people coming through,” he said.