Motorists stranded as Sand River bridge is demolished

A gaping hole at the top end of the Sand River bridge

It looks like a tsunami coming!” These words were spoken by one of the disaster management team as he looked towards St Francis Links Golf course  from the top of a hill. And the force of water may well have equalled that of a tsunami since it broke the Sand River bridgeacross the R330 on the Humansdorp side of the SandRiver.

Early this morning trenches had been dug up at the Links dam on the 4th and 5th to provide an escape route for the dam waters. The Links dams have been filling up with storm waters that have flowed from the wetlands behind the Dunes farm. The one Links dam wall was unstable and it was feared  it coulde burst and flow down the hill to flood St Francis Bay golf course – as happened in 2007 when flood water from way behind the Dunes farm stormed across the Links and down to the entrance of the town and then onto the village golf course.

Up at St Francis Links Jeff Clause, who cut short his holiday in Cape Town and hot-tailed it back to the Links when notified the dam wall had a crack in it and there was high danger it could breach, told me the Links had built another catchment dam leading off the main one to collect excess dam water in flood times and it was this dam wall that was unstable.

“Rather than having the water tear down the hill it’s better to allow the water to travel a different route through the reserve and then join the Sand River,” he said.

So the Links team and John Hanley from St Francis Brick and others dug huge trenches with specialised bulldozers. When the dam water found an exit route it raced down the trenches towards the Sand River. Unfortunately the dam water gained momentum rapidly and the Sand River bridge broke. Traffic officers then blocked off the road at the traffic circle at St Francis Bay.

” This means there is no road access to St Francis Bay  the  moment,”Kouga Municipality announced. “The Municipality’s emergency and technical services teams are busy assessing the damage to see how quickly access can be restored.”
The broken bridge resulted in hundreds of stranded motorists on either side of the huge gaping hole on the R330. Some people had to stay in St Francis or Humansdorp overnight while others waited while municipal officials and the disaster management team tried to repair the road.

At 5.30 pm there were giant trucks and bulldozers  trying to make a temporary road, according to Stanley Baartman of the disaster management team. And on the Humansdorp the were many taxis waiting to take the workers home… though some who had to get home in a hurry, waded across the river assisted by municipal officials.

The Links dam on the 4th and 5th this morning

The Sand River swollen with water from the dam races towards the bridge – shortly before the bridge broke

Motorists and workers stranded at the entrance to the town at 5.30 pm

 A view of the broken Sand River bridge from the river’s edge.

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