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Sewer pipe collapses and destroys homes

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Our whole living room collapsed and our bedroom where my wife was sleeping, says resident

Photo of a big hole and shacks
Two homes fell into two-metre holes that appeared after a sewer pipe collapsed in Overcome Heights. Photo: Aidan Jones
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Seven families were moved to temporary shelters after a sewage pipe collapsed last week in Overcome Heights informal settlement. Two homes disappeared into the holes that formed after the collapse and several others were affected.

Wynand Kotze, site foreman for Nejeni Construction and Project Management, which has been contracted by the City to do the repairs, say the crumbling section of pipe is 60 metres long.

Resident Remember Mkonto, who had a three-bedroom shack, said his wife was sleeping at home when she heard the neighbour’s house collapse. “She went outside and immediately our whole living room collapsed and our bedroom where she was sleeping,” said Mkonto. Luckily she wasn’t injured.

The neighbour, Michael Khoza, told GroundUp that this was the third time the pipe had “burst”. “It happened two times last year – in September and in December. They [City] came and fixed it but it’s never a permanent solution.”

“Now this happens. I have lost my home … I am happy that it did not happen when my children were home because who knows what would have happened [then],” said Khoza.

The City has provided the families with starter kits for new shacks. They were told the repair could take six months. Mkonto and Khoza have put their shacks together, separated by ceiling board. “There is no space or privacy [here],” said Mkonto.

When GroundUp visited, clothes had been packed in plastic bags as the rain had come through the leaking roof.

Mkonto had asked his neighbours to look after his furniture, and some of his building materials after the collapse. “The City should provide us with storage for all our belongings,” he said.

Khoza said, “We must now go around asking people for help so we can have our belongings safe.”

There is currently a truck pumping and piping the sewage around the collapsed section and back into the main pipe which goes to the sewer works in Strandfontein.

The main drain is in front of the home of Teressa Williams, who has been living in the area for 13 years. Williams has tried using blankets to cover the drain to block the smell and as a safety precaution for her children. “It smells all day,” she said.

She is now in the process of moving her shack. She has a family of five.

“When the pipes don’t flow at full level, which is often now because of water restrictions and pressure reductions, sewer gas accumulates and eats away at the pipe,” said Kotze. He said the pipe was laid 40 to 50 years ago.

Kotze said the repair would take “around three months”, but that the City had not yet given official instructions about how to proceed.

The City has not yet responded to GroundUp’s queries about the status of the repair.

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TOPICS:  Housing Sanitation